Color woodblock print, with mica background: ōban tate-e, 15¼ x 10½ in. (38.7 x 26.7 cm); 1815
Series: Greatest Hit Plays (Ōatari kyōgen no uchi)
Signed: Gototei Kunisada ga
Censor’s seal: kiwame (approved)
Publisher: Kawaguchiya Uhei (Fukusendō)
Ichikawa Danjūrō VII appears in the role of Kan Shōjō in the Mount Tenpai scene of an updated version, by Tsuruya Nanboku IV, of what was now a classic early-eighteenth century play— Sugawara’s Secrets of Calligraphy (Sugawara denju tenarai kagami)—entitled Sekai no hana Sugawara denju. The play debuted at the kaomise performances held at the Ichimura Theater in the eleventh month of 1814.
Danjūrō VII was known for his skillful application of the red kumadori makeup that here accentuates his character’s angry expression. The makeup, designed to indicate to the audience the essential nature of the role, was introduced by Ichikawa Danjūrō I (1660‒1704) and was based on that used in Chinese opera. Red signified strength, manliness, and passion; blue, cowardliness and evil.