Utagawa Kunimasa: The Onnagata Actor Nakamura Noshiö II as Gotobei's Wife, Tokujo in the Play Kaeribana Yukimo Yoshitsune - Honolulu Museum of Art

Artist: Utagawa Kunimasa

Title: The Onnagata Actor Nakamura Noshiö II as Gotobei's Wife, Tokujo in the Play Kaeribana Yukimo Yoshitsune

Date: 1795

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Source: Honolulu Museum of Art
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This print depicts Noshiö as the courtesan Shöshö, sweetheart of Gorö, in the Kabuki drama Edo no Haru Kichirei Soga, (The New Year's Actor Parade of Soga-drama Roles) performed in the Miyako-za theater of Edo in 1797. An onnagata is a male actor in a female role. (from “Kabuki Actors on Stage” exhibition 4/14/2003-) ALT TEXT This print depicts Nakamura Noshiö II in the role of Sekijo in the play Kaeribana yuki no Yoshitsune (Yoshitsune of the Snow in Second Bloom), performed in Edo in 1795 as part of the Miyako-za Theater's annual kaomise, or "face-showing," event in which the troupe's new actors were presented to the public. Sekijo is the wife of Gotobei, a skilled tactician with an unfortunate weakness for alcohol who is tricked by conspirators into overindulging in front of his would-be captain-the renowned Yoshitsune of Tale of the Heike fame-and disgracing himself. When Sekijo hears of this, she angrily decides to procure a letter of divorce, but when Gotobei later proves himself to Yoshitsune and earns respect, she regrets her hasty actions and suggests remarriage. Sekijo's daughter is ashamed of her mother's foolishness and kills herself after admonishing Sekijo for her impudence. Chastened by her daughter's suicide, Sekijo sets out on a mission to rescue her stepson from Kamakura, rifle in her hands. The role of Sekijo is one of the "devoted wife" roles traditionally assigned to middle-aged onnagata. Sekijo's attire comprises a number of traditional wedding garments, including an uchikake, a kimono worn over the wedding robe during the reception, and a tsunokakushi, a headcloth that symbolically covers a woman's "horns of jealousy" and demonstrates her willingness to be a faithful and obedient wife. ALT TEXT These prints were produced after the early innovations of artists like Harunobu, who are credited with the invention of full color printing, or nishiki-e (brocade prints). Actor prints were common by the late 18th century, and served as popular advertisements for Kabuki actors. In order to stand out from other prints, the printers sometimes used mica grounds, created by sprinkling mica over a glue base. These prints were conserved in 2005. (displayed with cat. no. 21751 at the Into the Light exhibition 2005)

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