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Boy's day decoration with Danjuro as The Demon Queller Shoki

Boy's day decoration with Danjuro as The Demon Queller Shoki
Woodblock print, surimono, signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ei, sealed Kuniyoshi, circa 1849
Obirobosho surimono: 17 x 22 3/8 in. (43.2 x 56.8 cm.)

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Lot Essay

This oversize surimono was commissioned by two groups of wealthy fishmongers, the Shinga and the Uogashi, on the occasion of the departure for Osaka by the celebrated by the celebrated actor Ichikawa Danjuro VIII, also known as Sansho after his family's distinctive crest. The actor was about to visit his famous father Danjuro VII (Ebizo V), who had been living in the Kansai area since 1842 after his exile from Edo for infractions of the government's sumptuary laws.
Danjuro VIII is portrayed as Shoki (known in China as Zhong Kui), a Chinese mythological figure easily recognizable by his bulging eyes, bushy beard, military outfit, scholar's hat, and straight, double-edged sword whose hilt is just visible in Kuniyoshi's image. In Japan it became common for families with boys to hang Shoki's image on banners outside their homes, along with large paper carp, to celebrate the Boy's Festival on the fifth day of the fifth month. Shoki paintings also acted as talismans against bad luck and disease, and assured future health and prosperity; sentiments that the actor's fan clubs would certainly have wished extended to their idols.
To the left of Shoki, and the focus of his wide-eyed, squinting glare, is a paper tag upon which Kuniyoshi has playfully painted a fleeing demon. In the background floats a large paper carp streamer, rendered in black to indicate that the two poetry groups' felicitations are directed to both father and son. Poems from members of the two groups appear at the top right and bottom left. In the bottom right corner are short verses by Kuniyoshi himself, the block-cutter Hori Takejiro, and the printer Suriko Masa, in addition to the well-known Kabuki aficionado Goryutei Tokusho (1793-1853), who presumably acted as one of the judges of the poems included.

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