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Utagawa Toyokuni, The Kabuki actor Segawa Ronosuke as Shizuka Gozen, a hanging scroll painting

1803/1803

British Museum

British Museum

This painting shows the Kabuki female impersonator, Segawa Ronosuke, probably in the role of Princess Shizuka in the play Yoshitsune sembon-sakura ('Yoshitsune and the Yoshino Cherry Trees'). Clear clues are offered by the background of cherry blossoms and the haiku poem, probably composed and written by the actor himself. It reads:

Sakura saku
Koro wa shizuka in
Hōkō kana

(In the season of / Blossoming cherry / Why not proceed more slowly?)

In the play, Shizuka is forced to flee to Mt. Yoshino, famous for its cherry trees. Here she is seen dressed for the journey, carrying a large black lacquered hat and walking stick with a bundle on her back. One sleeve of her kimono has been slipped off, and the white under-kimono contrasts strikingly with the brilliant primary colours of her outer robe, with its pattern of yellow kerria flowers scattered over a stream.

Segawa Ronosuke is recorded as having played the role of Shizuka once, at the Ichimura theatre in the eighth month of the year 1803, and it is likely that this is the performance that Toyokuni (1769-1825) has recorded.

The signature reads 'Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga' ('painted by Ichiyōsai Toyokuni'). The seals read 'Ichiyōsai, Toyokuni'.

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  • Title: Utagawa Toyokuni, The Kabuki actor Segawa Ronosuke as Shizuka Gozen, a hanging scroll painting
  • Date Created: 1803/1803
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 93.80cm; Width: 25.50cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: painted
  • Subject: actor/actress; kabuki
  • Registration number: 1913,0501,0.399
  • Production place: Published in Edo
  • Producer: Painted by Toyokuni I, Utagawa. Inscription by Segawa Michinosuke I
  • Period/culture: Kyowa Era
  • Material: silk
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Gwynne-Evans, William. Previous owner/ex-collection Morrison, Arthur

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