Ichikawa Sadanji as the monk Raigō Ajari from the series Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

The actor Ichikawa Sadanji as the monk Raigō Ajari

from the series Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac

by Toyohara Kunichika, 1877

Court Lady Uematsu Michiko from the series List of Musical Beauties

IHL Cat. #652

About This Print

Theactor Ichikawa Sadanji (1842-1904) as the monk Raigō Ajari (1002-1084), grasping a sutra form which a string of rats emerge.  Raigō's prayers have given Emperor Shirakawa (r. 1072-86) an heir.  He asks in return for a raised platform, like the one in the temple of the yamabushi (warrior priests) who terrorized Kyoto, but it is denied.  Raigō starves himself to death and his vengeful spirit (onryō, 怨霊) changes into a thousand rats which destroy the Emperor’s sacred library.  This is followed by the death of the emperor's son.

For a profile of Ichikawa Sadanji please see the article The Kabuki Actor.

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 #652
 Title (Description) Ichikawa Sadanji 市川 左団次 as Raigō Ajari 頼豪阿闍
 Series Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac - Rat (奇術十二支之内 子 kijutsu jūnishi no uchi - nezumi) (as shown in main cartouche)
 Artist  Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900)
 Signature Toyohara Kunichika hitsu with toshidama seal
 Seal  toshidama seal
 Publication Date
date seal 明治十年二月一日 (February 1, 1877)
left rectangle: 植木 林之助 Ueki Rinnosuke (Ebiya Rinnosuke) and address [Marks: similar to 26-011; pub. ref. 040]

right rectangle: 荒川八十八 gakou (painter) Arakawa Yasohachi (Kunichika's mother's surname, Arakawa, and the artist's given name, Yasohachi, followed by the artist's address)
Watanabe 渡辺 Hori 彫 Yata 弥太 - the seal of Watanabe Yotarō followed by the price of 2 sen 二㦮
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent
 Genre ukiyo-e; yakusha-e; mitate
 Format vertical oban
 H x W Paper
 14 x 9 1/2 in. (35.6 x 24.1 cm)
 Collections This Print
 National Diet Library http://dl.ndl.go.jp/info:ndljp/pid/9369988    
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