Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825)
'The Kabuki Actor Ichikawa Omezô I in the Drama "Shibaraku"'
Nishiki-e (brocade print)
Signature: Toyokuni ga
Museum no. E.4829-1886
This is most likely a depiction of a production performed at the Morita-za Theatre in November 1810. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), the script of the play 'Shibaraku' (Wait!) became fixed and the name of the main character was designated as Kamakura no Gongorô Kamemasa. Originally, however, the plot and the characters were created afresh each time it was performed.
Virtuous men and women, about to be cut down by an evil lord and his servants, are saved by a man with superhuman strength. When this hero appears on stage, he utters the words, 'Wait! Wait!' thus satisfying the expectant anticipation of the audience.
The bold graphic stylisation and abstraction of form in prints such as these exerted a great influence on European artists. The South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) acquired a major collection of Japanese prints in 1886, making a large body of these images available to artists and a wider public for the first time.
This print can be found in Japanese Print Room Box JP1.