Katsukawa Shunshō (attributed to)
Ichikawa Danjūrō V as Ōboshi Yuranosuke

From the series: Kanadehon Chūshingura; Publisher’s logo (Enshūya Matabei); uchiwa-e, 23.5 x 26.0 cm; nishiki-e

Unsigned fan picture from the series Kanadehon Chūshingura This round fan picture shows Ichikawa Danjūrō V as Ōishi Kuranosuke, the leader of the 47 rōnin, in the famous play Chūshingura (“The Treasury of Loyal Retainers”). The censors prohibited the correct name from being mentioned, thus the designation Ōboshi Yuranosuke. Shunshō designed half-portraits of famous actors (hanshin-e) and portraits of their heads(ōkubi-e) even before Sharaku. The round fan format (uchiwa-e) is, however, rare in the Katsukawa school.

Provenance: Bullier, Paris; F. Tikotin, La Tour de Peilz (April 1965)
Riese Collection #45

After his master, Lord Enya, was driven to draw his sword in the shôgun’s palace, and forced to commit ceremonial suicide, Kuranosuke, his chamberlain, swore to take revenge. To forestall suspicion, however, and to deceive his enemy’s spies, he spent his time in a teahouse in Gion in Kyōto, apparently dissipating his strength in drunkenness and debauchery. In the 7th act of the play that describes this famous evince, Yūranosuke is brought an important message from his fellow-conspirators. For an instant he allows his facade to fall, showing his bitterness and determination of purpose. It is this moment which the designer of the fan has chosen to portray.
Danjurô acted the role of Kuranosuke twice in the 1780s, first at the Nakamura-za in 1783, later at the Kiri-za in 8/1787. The Nakamura-za performance is the more celebrated in the theatrical records, but without further outside evidence it is impossible to choose between the two dates.

Although Vignier and Inada catalogued this handsome print as “unsigned”, von Seidlitz attributed it to Shunshō, and other writers have followed his attribution, although there is a possibility that the print may have been designed by Shunshō’s pupil Shunkō. Woodblock prints designed to be pasted onto fans were common in Edo at least as early as the mid-1760s: Two prints by Harunobu show fan sellers, both of them with portraits of actors on fans. Enshūya, the publisher of this fan, in fact published at least one series of fans on the subject of the Seven Komachis by Harunobu. Since fans were used and thrown away, very few of these prints have survived. One fan seller’s sample book with prints by Katsukawa artists dating from the years around 1790 survived and was recently dispersed, but this print seems to be the only actor portrait in a fan format which has survived from the years previous.

Reproduced in:
- Vignier and Inada, Harunobu, Koryūsai, Shunshō, no. 602, pl. LXVI.
- Von Seidlitz, 2nd edition, pl. 53 (colour).
- E. Fenollosa, L’Art en Chine et en Japon, pl. 296 (colour).
- Ingelheim catalogue, no. 39.