Katsukawa Shunjō
The Actor Onoe Matsusuke I in a Double Role

Signed: Shunjō ga; hosoban, 32.0 x 14.3 cm; nishiki-e with karazuri and kirazuri

Onoe Matsusuke I, who was famous for his ingenuity, plays both the role of the lady Ohimekimi as well as of the samurai Yōzaka Jinnai, who is walking by the garden gate here. The scene is from the play Nanagusa yosohi Soga in a production from the spring of 1782 at Nakamura-za. Rapid costume changes are popular in kabuki; thus Matsusuke is able to transform himself from an itinerant samurai into a young woman quickly using tricks.

Provenance: Horst A. Rittershofer (Berlin, October 1961)
Riese Collection #47

Matsusuke was an extremely inventive actor who in the later part of his life was famous for his impersonation of ghosts and other supernatural beings. In this performance given around 1780, at the height of his career, he has taken two roles simultaneously. In the kabuki theatre it is customary for an actor to hold certain poses for long periods of time, creating a deliberate tableau upon the stage. In this scene, Matsusuke probably made his way to the gate of the house, lifted the wicker hat that hid him from view, revealing himself to the audience, and then slowly turned toward the closed panelled doors of the house in the background. Quick changes of costume are also common in kabuki, and through some ingenious device, Matsusuke was able to leave his samurai attire standing by the gate and quickly make his way around or perhaps beneath the set, appearing, after a suitable interval, as the young woman we see.

Reproduced in Ingelheim catalogue, no. 38.