- Museum number
Woodblock print with hand-colouring, uki-e. Interior of Nakamura-za theatre in Edo, with depiction of renowned actor Ichikawa Ebizo performing 'Ya no ne Goro' (Arrowhead Goro); lanterns decorated with the crests of principal actors performing at the main theatres in Edo; members of the audience. Trimmed. Inscribed.
- Production date
- 1745 (ca. 11th month)
Height: 43.80 centimetres
Width: 65 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Kabuki actors in Edo entered into a contract at the beginning of each year-long theatrical season with one of the three main theatres, and then performed only at that theatre for the year-long period. The opening-of-the-season performance, the so-called ‘face showing’ (kaomise), was the most bustling, serving the purpose quite literally of showing which actors would be performing at that theatre during the coming year.
Artist Okumura Masanobu was celebrated as the originator of ‘perspective pictures’ (uki-e), which were well suited to showing the expansive interior of a theatre. Here he shows in great detail the enthusiastic audience at an opening-of-the-season performance, and includes such realistic details as the wooden pillar that was actually part of the architecture of theatre buildings at this time. At the centre of the stage the veteran star Ichikawa Ebizo- (Danju-ro- II) performs one of his signature roles as ‘Arrow-Sharpening Goro- ’ (Yanone Goro-). Judging by the particular combination of actor crests that appears on the lanterns hanging near the ceiling, it can be confirmed that the print depicts the opening-of-the-season performance in the Nakamura Theatre in the eleventh month, 1745. However, there is no record that Ebizo- played ‘Arrow-Sharpening Goro-’ on that occasion. So, rather than depicting completely accurate information, the great strength and appeal of this print lies rather in its satisfying combination of a view of a kabuki theatre, the most popular place in the great city of Edo, with its most famous actor, the great Ebizo-. [MR]
Examples of this print are known with a title reading, "Shibai kyogen butai kaomise o-uki-e" (芝居狂言舞台顔見せ大浮絵) (Large Perspective View of an Opening-of-the-Season Performance Onstage at the Kabuki Theatre). The kabuki season premier was held during the eleventh month. The ginkgo-leaf crest of the Nakamura-za theatre in Edo appears on the transom beneath the stage roof, flanking the crane. The illustration depicts a performance by Ichikawa Ebizo (Danjuro II) in "Ya no ne Goro" (Arrowhead Goro), which took place at the Nakamura-za during the season premier of 1740. The combination of actor's crests on the hanging lanterns suggests, however, that the print generally announced the start of the 1745 Edo theatrical season. Nakamura Denkuro (represented by the lantern on the far right, row closest to the viewer) does not seem to have performed in Edo prior to that year, and that year the actors represented by the crests did not all perform at the Nakamura-za. Perhaps the artist revised an earlier image with updated crests, or perhaps he referred to the earlier performance because Ebizo appeared at the Nakamura-za in 1745 and "Ya no ne" had been a famous successful event.
The crests on the front row of lanterns (closest to the viewer) may represent the following actors (left to right): Hagino Isaburo (萩野伊三郎), Bando Hikosaburo (坂東彦三郎), Uncertain, Sawamura Sojuro (沢村宗十郎), Yoshizawa Ayame (芳沢あやめ), Ichimura Uzaemon (市村羽左衛門), Nakamura Kansaburo (中村勘三郎), Segawa Kikunojo (瀬川菊之丞), Ichikawa Ebizo (Danjuro II; (市川海老蔵), Otani Oniji (大谷鬼治)、Fujikawa Heikuro (藤川平九郎), Ichikawa Sosaburo (市川宗三郎)、Nakamura Shichisaburo (中村七三郎), and Nakamura Denkuro (中村伝九郎). The lantern In the middle of the second row has the crest of Morita Kan`ya (森田勘弥).
The borders with the title and artist's signature, etc. have been trimmed. The actors' crests on the ceiling lanterns give the lineup for the opening of the season in 1745. One of the grandest of the early 'perspective views'.
(Label copy, TTC, 1998)
This 'perspective print' shows in vivid detail the inside of one of Edo's greatest theatres, the audience relaxing, eating and drinking as still happens at traditional Kabuki performances. The actors' crests on the lanterns enable the print to be dated to around 1745. One of the actors named on the print is Ichikawa Ebizo. This composition centers on a Nakamura-za 'kaomise' (literally, 'face-showing' by an actor, occurring at the beginning of the season in the eleventh month). This copy is trimmed, but complete examples include the artist's and publisher's names in the margins.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1993 12 Sep-12 Dec, Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Japan and Europe: 1543-1929
2013 3 Oct-2014 5 Jan, London, BM, Shunga: Sex and pleasure in Japanese art, 1600-1900
2020 Feb - 1 Nov, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Kimono Fashion
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Ya no ne Goro 矢の根五郎 (play)
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: B12