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The Actor Iwai Kumesaburō I as Yae, the Wife of Sakuramaru

Utagawa Kunimasa Japanese

Not on view

This print and the one alongside it (Dirks.178) brilliantly encapsulate Kunimasa’s genius at capturing the essentials of a Kabuki actor’s facial features and the essence of his stage persona. The two extremes of Kabuki roles are represented: the soft, gentle, and feminine features of Iwai Kumesaburō I (1776–1847) as the wife of a samurai retainer here, and the masculine bravado, corpulent strength, and fierceness of Nakamura Nakazō II (1759–1796) as Matsuōmaru.

The two prints are thought to commemorate different scenes from the same production of Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy (Sugawara denju tenarai kagami), a favorite of the Kabuki repertory, held in the seventh month of 1796, at the Miyako theater in Edo.

The Actor Iwai Kumesaburō I as Yae, the Wife of Sakuramaru, Utagawa Kunimasa (Japanese, 1773–1810), Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper; vertical ōban, Japan

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