Nakamura Jakuemon as the Wisteria Maiden
By Paul Binnie
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Edition size: 48/100
Sheet size: 43.1 by 30 cm
Price: $600 (excl. taxes)
From the "Large-head Kabuki Portraits" series, with gold metallic printing on the yellow of the umbrella, the outlines of the leaves on the robe and the leaf pattern on the red lacquer comb, and fine silver mica on the entire purple background; signed at upper right, Binnie, with artist's circular kanji seal Bin-ni, the print title along the right margin, Fuji Musume- Nakamura Jakuemon, from a limited edition of 100, with date seal Heisei hachi-nen (Heisei 8 ), and signed in pencil on the bottom margin, Paul Binnie, released ca. February-March 1997
oban tate-e 17 by 11 3/4 in., 43.1 by 30 cm
The actor Nakamura Jakuemon IV (1920-2012), designated a Living National Treasure by the Japanese government in 1991, is in the role of the Wisteria Maiden from the dance Fuji Musume (The Wisteria Maiden). Taught by the legendary onnagata Nakamura Utaemon VI (1917-2001), Jakuemon IV was likewise an accomplished onnagata and over his career performed in leading roles including Agemaki in Sukeroku, Hanako in Musume Dojoji, and Kasane in Kasane.
Fuji Musume is a transfixing performance with the onnagata presented as a spectacle of beauty, containing the traditional sections of a kabuki dance performed with accompanying lyrics: de (entrance dance); monogatari (narrative); kudoki (lamentation); odoriji (rhythmic finale); and chirashi (ultimate finale or scattering). While the lyrics are highly allusional, the poignant dance explores the universal themes of feminine love and heartbreak. That the role of Wisteria Maiden is reserved for only the most accomplished onnagata provides insight into the reverence which kabuki theater holds for that tradition, and the extent to which a master onnagata can still shape notions of femininity, grace, and beauty.