Syllable KO from the series Seven Variations of the Kana Syllabary (Seisho nanatsu iroha)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III) - Syllable KO from the series Seven Variations of the Kana Syllabary (Seisho nanatsu iroha)
With the series of syllables from the Japanese syllabary iroha in seven calligraphic variants, Kunisada returned to the popular series of stations on the Tōkaidō Road and scenes with one hundred poets. The series Seven Variations of Syllabary Characters (Seisho nanatsu iroha) has a similar typographic design with a decorative heading and a loosely-following illustration composed in a square with a direct link to kabuki theatre. The National Gallery Prague houses 32 sheets from the original series of 47 syllables (some in duplicate) selected from two albums. After the great success of this cycle, Kunisada published a continuation of this series of theatre scenes, which were sorted by syllabary characters or by the characters of the iroha poem (Nanatsu iroha shūi). This print depicts the play The Battles of Koxinga (Kokusenya kassen) and portraits of the actors Ichikawa Danjūrō VIII as Watōnai, and Ichikawa Ebizō V as General Kanki. The drama Kokusenya Kassen was written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon in 1715. In kabuki theatre, the character of its protagonist Watōnai – half Japanese, half Chinese – was played in the aragoto style. That is why Watōnai wears conspicuous makeup. The rope is another of his attributes. Watōnai’s antics include the taming of a tiger. (See Helena Honcoopová, Kunisada, Praha 2005, p. 214)
measurements: height 35,8 cm
width 24 cm
material: paper
technique: Colour woodblock print
inventory number: Vm 2304
gallery collection: Collection of Asian and African Art