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Bandō Hikosaburō V as Unryū Kūrō from the series Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

The actor Bandō Hikosaburō V as Unryū Kūrō

from the series Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac

by Toyohara Kunichika, 1877


IHL Cat. # 651

About This Print

The actor Bandō Hikosabu V (1832-1877) as Unryū Kūrō shown reading a scroll from which he has conjured a dragon.  The character is taken from the book Unryū Kurō chūtōden by Shikitei Sanba (1776-1822.)

For a profile of Bandō Hikosaburō V please see the article The Kabuki Actor.

A subtle pattern on Unryū's kimono is revealed when the print is held at an angle to the light.

The Series Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac

This series of twelve prints depicts actors in roles associated with the twelve animal signs of the Zodiac.  The Japanese Zodiac and calendar were introduced from China into Japan in the sixth century.  Legend has it that the animals of the Zodiac (子 Rat, 丑 Ox, 寅 Tiger, 卯 Hare, 辰 Dragon, 巳 Snake, 午 Horse, 未 Goat, 申 Monkey, 酉 Rooster, 戌 Dog and 亥 Boar) were named by the Buddha as he lay dying. 

The Lavenberg Collection contains five prints from the series: Sawamura Tosshō II as Tora ŌmaruIchikawa Sadanji as the monk Raigo AjariBandō Hikosaburō as Unryū KūrōOnoe Kikugorō V as Mibu no Kozaru and Bandō Hikosaburō as Inugami HyōbuTo see all twelve prints from the series go to Sawamura Tosshō II as Tora Ōmaru   

While some sources attribute the images in the series to particular plays, my guess is that the scenes depicted are from the imagination of Kunichika, rather than from actual plays. 

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #651
 Title (Description)  Bandō Hikosaburō V 坂東 彦三郎 as Unryū Kūrō 雲龍九郎 
 Series  Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac - Dragon (奇術十二支之内 辰 kijutsu jūnishi no uchi - tatsu) (as shown in main cartouche)
 Artist  Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900)
 Signature  Toyohara Kunichika hitsu with toshidama seal
 Seal  toshidama seal
 Publication Date   no date seal on print but as with other prints in the series likely 明治十年二月一日 (February 1, 1877)
 Publisher
no publisher's seal but as with other prints in the series 植木 林之助 Ueki Rinnosuke (Ebiya Rinnosuke)

 Carver
 no carver's seal or name on print
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  excellent
 Genre  ukiyo-e; yakusha-e; mitate
 Miscellaneous  
 Format  vertical oban
 H x W Paper
 14 x 9 1/2 in. (35.6 x 24.1 cm)
 Literature
 
 Collections This Print
 Tokyo Metropolitan Museum 015-02; National Diet Library  http://dl.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/9369992
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