Memorial Portrait of Ichikawa Danjurō VIII
Artist(s)Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)Artist NationalityJapanese (culture or style)Object Creation Date1854Medium & Supportwoodblock print on paperDimensions
14 1/16 in x 9 3/4 in (35.7 cm x 24.8 cm)Credit LineGift of Dr. James HayesSubject matter
Actor Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII died suddenly in 1854. He took the name of Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII at the young age of 10 and was by most accounts a prodigy on the stage and had amassed a large following of dedicated fans when he committed suicide at the age of 32. “Death portraits” or “memorial portraits” of actors would often be published after especially popular actors died, and they often depicted the actor in a role for which he had been famous as well as poems and his posthumous name. Over a hundred different memorial prints were published, many of which, like this print, seem to depict Ichikawa Danjūrō in the role of Enya Hangan from the play Chushingura
in the scene when Enya commits suicide (indicated by knife in the right hand). This scene links the tragedy of this moment from the play with Danjūrō’s own death. Danjūrō’s posthumous name is printed on the top right along with the date of his death with a memorial poem written above.
In addition to the prints that portrayed him as Enya, the variety of themes and styles of his memorial prints is staggering; other prints depicted him walking on a cloud, sitting on a lotus blossom, or being taken away to another world while fans try to hold him back.
A simply dressed man looks toward his left. His hand is raised over his chest, and his hair is dishevelled. He holds a small knife in his right hand.
Primary Object ClassificationPrintCollection AreaAsianRights
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actors (performing artists)