'Style of Toyokuni, Famous Kabuki Actors in a Melange of Scenes from the Drama "Chûshingura"'

'Style of Toyokuni, Famous Kabuki Actors in a Melange of Scenes from the Drama "Chûshingura"'

Style of Toyokuni (1769-1825)
'Famous Kabuki Actors in a Melange of Scenes from the Drama "Chûshingura"'
Mid-1810s
Nishiki-e (brocade print)
Triptych, three ôban-size sheets
Museum no. 21355

Tokoyuni was working at a time when the Kabuki theatre and theatrical print tradition was flourishing, and his work forms a vivid testimony of this major theatrical tradition. This is a collection of representative scenes from the play, 'Kanadehon Chûshingura' (The Treasury of the Forty-Seven Loyal Retainers).

This is one of Kabuki's most famous plays. The artist has not added his signature, but it is unmistakably by Toyokuni. It is uncertain exactly when the print was made, but it may have been 1815 or 1816, a time when Chûshingura was frequently performed.

The design of this print is a good example of the use of Far Eastern perspective. Far Eastern perspective is based on 'affine geometry', so a box is depicted in perspective as a cube, with opposing lines remaining parallel. Western perspective, however, uses 'projective geometry', so that a box is depicted as a trapezoid. 'Affine geometry' suited the format of much Far Eastern art - the narrow, horizontal shape of scrolls, for instance, which allows for multiple viewpoints.

 

This print can be found in Japanese Print Room Box JP2.