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drawing

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    2009,7079.1

  • Description

    Portrait of the actor Ichikawa Danjuro IX, standing in a dramatic pose typical of kabuki performances, with sword raised above his head, and strongly lit from the left.
    Pastel on board, kept in its original frame designed by the artist

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1890 (ca.)
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 67.3 centimetres (sheet)
    • Width: 48.2 centimetres (sheet)
    • Height: 88.1 centimetres (frame)
    • Width: 69.8 centimetres (frame)
  • Curator's comments

    Menpes, a student of James McNeill Whistler, first visited Japan in 1887, when he met the ninth-generation bearer of the stage-name Ichikawa Danjūrō. Menpes wrote favourably of Danjūrō’s attempts to introduce aspects of modern acting style into the kabuki theatrical tradition, calling him “one of the greatest living actors in the whole world”. Menpes compared Danjūrō to the contemporary English actor Sir Henry Irving, to whom he presented the painting, probably in 1898. The Museum possesses representations of Danjūrō IX by several artists in the woodblock print medium. This painting complements these works, demonstrating the changes occurring during the Meiji era, with the increase in foreign visitors to Japan, and the resulting social and artistic interactions.

    A detail of a watercolour painting of the same subject was included in Menpes’ publication Japan: A Record in Colour, published in 1901.
    See copies of documentation supplied by the vendor (with Asia)
    1. Photograph from Menpes’ book on Sir Henry Irving of a letter (Dec. 1898) from Irving to Menpes thanking him for a painting (not described)
    2. Auction catalogue of the effects of the late Sir Henry Irving, Christie’s, 16 Dec. 1905, lot. 58: ‘Mortimer Menpes, Dengero [sic], the celebrated Japanese actor, pastel, 26.5 x 19 in [67.3 x 48.2 cm – exactly the size of the present work]. Catalogue annotation: ‘Sold to Mascall, price 7gns.’
    3. Two letters from the Theatre Museum dated 11 May and 27 August 1981, giving more information about Danjuro, Kabuki theatre and Sir Henry Irving
    For more on Menpes and Japan, see:
    Tomoko Sato and Toshio Watanabe, Japan and Britain, London, Barbican Art Gallery, 1991, pp. 144, cats. 272-279
    John Clark, Japanese Exchanges in Art, 1850s -1930s, Sydney, 2001, pp. 248-9.

    More 

  • Location

    Not on display (British Framed Basement PVIIIb)

  • Exhibition history

    2009 Oct-Feb 2010, BM Japanese Gall, Japan from prehistory to the present
    2012 December-April 2013, BM Japanese Gallery
    2013-4, Nov-Mar, Munich, Villa Stuck, 'The Artist's Residence...'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    2009

  • Acquisition notes

    This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era. Purchased by the Department of Asia but stored in P&D. Credit Line: Purchase funded by the Brooke Sewell Bequest.

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number

    2009,7079.1

Portrait of the actor Ichikawa Danjuro IX, standing in a dramatic pose typical of kabuki performances, with sword raised above his head, and strongly lit from the left.   Pastel on board.

Portrait of the actor Ichikawa Danjuro IX, standing in a dramatic pose typical of kabuki performances, with sword raised above his head, and strongly lit from the left. Pastel on board.

Image description

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Object reference number: PDB253696

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