Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Ichikawa Danjūrō VII as Benkei in the Fudō Myōō Pose (Fudō no mie), Edo period (1615–1868), ca. 1824
    Utagawa Kunisada (Japanese, 1786–1865); poems by Bunshirō Koimasu and Bunsaisha Fudemaru
    Polychrome woodblock print (surimono); ink and color on paper; 8 7/16 x 7 3/8 in. (21.4 x 18.7 cm) Signed: Ōjū Kunisada ga
    Rogers Fund, 1921 (JP1251)

    The celebrated Kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjūrō VII (1791–1859), nicknamed “jewel-eyes” (medama) for his large eyes, plays Musashibō Benkei (1155–1189), the famed warrior monk who served Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159–1189) in the Genpei War. He appears in the pose of the Esoteric Buddhist King of Brightness Fudō Myōō, a deity especially revered in the Shugendō cult of mountain-dwelling ascetics to which Benkei belonged. Fudō Myōō, particularly at the temple Shinshōji in Narita, is also a protector of the Ichikawa family of Kabuki theater actors. This surimono, a privately commissioned print, would have been a New Year’s gift likely commissioned by one of Danjūrō’s fans. Two kyōka (31-syllable witty verses), written by men using the pen-names Bunshirō Koimasu and Bunsaisha Fudemaru, appear to the right and left, respectively, of the fierce figure. Both poems turn on the actor’s position as the seventh in his line, with the mention of the “seven tools” (nanadōgu) of Benkei, and the “seven herbs of spring” (haru no kusagusa) eaten with rice gruel on the seventh day of the New Year. Kunisada, a pupil of Utagawa Toyokuni (1769–1825), was the most successful print designer of his time. He created an earlier version of this composition in 1821, also a surimono.

    Aa tsugamo
    nazuna suzushiro
    omoshiro no
    nanatsu dōgu ya
    haru no kusagusa

    Ah! How wonderful!
    Shepherd’s purse, radish,
    and others make an unusual
    array of “Seven Tools”
    — the various herbs of spring.
    —Bunshirō Koimasu (Trans. John T. Carpenter)

    Uchihayasu
    shakushi sekkai
    iroiro ni
    sorou dōgu mo
    nanakusa no sechi

    A wooden ladle, knife,
    and array of other tools
    are used to the grind leaves,
    to celebrate the festival
    of the Seven Spring Herbs.
    —Bunsaisha Fudemaru (Trans. John T. Carpenter)

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  • Ichikawa Danjūrō VII as Benkei in the Fudō Myōō Pose (Fudō no mie), Edo period (1615–1868), ca. 1824
    Utagawa Kunisada (Japanese, 1786–1865); poems by Bunshirō Koimasu and Bunsaisha Fudemaru
    Polychrome woodblock print (surimono); ink and color on paper; 8 7/16 x 7 3/8 in. (21.4 x 18.7 cm) Signed: Ōjū Kunisada ga
    Rogers Fund, 1921 (JP1251)

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