Color woodblock print: ōban tate-e, 15¼ x 10¼ in. (38.7 x 26 cm); 7/1863
Series: Untitled Series of Ōkubi-e of Actors Past and Present
Signed: Nanajūhassai Toyokuni ga within toshidama cartouche
Censor’s seal: combined date and aratame (certified)
Blockcutter: Horikō Ryūzō (Kiyomizu Ryūzō)
Publisher: Ebisuya Shōshichi (Kinshōdō)
Here Danjūrō V is shown as Akushichibyōe Kagekiyo, in the play Hatsumonbi Yosooi Soga performed at the Kawarazaki Theater in 2/1802, opposite Ichikawa Omezō as Soga Gorō, Bandō Mitsugorō III as Soga Jūrō, and Osagawa Tsuneyo II as Akoya. This was Danjūrō V’s final performance on the Edo stage.
The brave Heike warrior was a character who came to Kabuki from the Noh theater. Introduced by Ichikawa Danjūrō II (1689–1758) in the early 1700s and often revived by succeeding generations of actors for Edo citizens. Kagekiyo became an exemplar of medieval heroism. His loyalty to his defeated Taira clan was limitless, as was his hatred for their enemy, the victorious Minamoto leader Yoritomo. The role became closely associated with the Ichikawa lineage, and was later selected by Ichikawa Danjūrō VII to be part of the eighteen plays of the Ichikawa clan, which became known as the Kabuki Juhachiban, as the title on this print suggests. It became customary to include the character in the first scene of plays in the Soga cycle, in a theater’s New Year performances. Kunisada’s teacher Utagawa Toyokuni portrayed Danjūrō twice in the role. He designed an ōkubi-e of the actor performing Kagekiyo in 2/1798 for the publisher Izumiya Ichibei, and a half-length portrait of the actor in an 1802 retirement performance noted above. As Toyokuni’s student at the time, Kunisada is very likely to have attended the rehearsals of the 1802 performance with his teacher. He used Toyokuni’s print as a model for his own image, focusing in on the head to suit his ōkubi-e composition.