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Shunei (1762 - 1819)

Kabuki Actor as Yaoya Oshichi

Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: c. 1794
Size (H x W): 12.5 x 5.5 (inches)
Signature: Shunei ga
Condition: Good color, very good impression, very light soiling, very small repaired wormage top edge, partially backed, small tape on reverse.



While kabuki actors usually wear just one mon, or family crest, the unidentified actor in this design features two. In addition to the family crest on the right sleeve, the actor wears a second mon on his left—a folded letter enclosed in a circle. This is the crest of Arashi Kiyosaburo, the actor credited with the popularization of the the role in 1709. As fellow performers assumed the role of Yaoya Oshichi, they often wore the crest of Arashi Kiyosaburo as tribute.

About the artist

A student of Shunsho, Shunei Katsukawa was a prolific and successful woodblock print artist. Most active from the mid-1780s through the 1790s, his earliest known work is an illustrated book published in 1782. He is credited as one of the first artists to popularize the emerging okubi-e, or “big head,” style portraits. In addition to actor prints, Shunei designed studies of sumo wrestlers. A contemporary of Toyokuni I and Sharaku, Shunei’s prints are distinctive in their active, yet balanced compositions and dramatic flair.