Height: 380.000 mm
Width: 251.000 mm
Arthur Morrison Collection
Asia JA 1906.12-20.0462
Utagawa Kunimasa, The actor Ichikawa Ebizō in a shibaraku role, a colour woodblock print
Edo period, 11th month, AD 1796
'Wait a moment!'
Kunimasa (1773-1810) designed this print as a tribute to the great Ebizō (formerly Ichikawa Danjūrō V) on the occasion of his retirement from the Kabuki stage in 1796. He chose to depict him in the shibaraku scene, one of the most famous in all Kabuki drama. With a thundering cry of 'shibaraku!' ('wait a moment!'), the hero bursts on to the hanamichi walkway from the back of the theatre just in time to save the characters on stage from certain death. Perhaps, in this print, Ebizō is depicted on the very brink of calling out.
In this okubi-e (‘large-head portrait'), Kunimasa gives us an unusual profile view of Ebizō. The main elements of the striking costume and make-up are clearly visible: the 'five-spoke wheel' wig with, top right, the paper 'strength' decorations under the black lacquer court hat; the fierce red make-up; the green jacket with design of stylized cranes; and most significant of all, the familiar persimmon-coloured costume with the three white interlocking squares (mimasu), which are the Ichikawa family emblem.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)
Narazaki Muneshige, and Yamaguchi Keisaburo (eds.), Ukiyo-e shūka, vol. 2 (Tokyo, shu eisha, 1979)