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signed Shunsen with artists’s seal Shunsen, publisher’s seal Watanabe (Watanabe Shozaburo), ca. 1952
dai oban tate-e 16 by 10 5/8 in., 40.5 by 27 cm
The actor Bando Hikosaburo VII (Ichimura Uzaemon XVII, 1916-2001) is in the role of Benkei from the 20th century dance play Hashi Benkei (Benkei on the Bridge). The play tells the legendary tale of Benkei and Yoshitsune, who in the play was referred to by his frequently used youth name, Ushiwakamaru, on Gojo Bridge. The large and fearsome Benkei was standing guard on the bridge collecting sword shards from defeated enemies when Ushiwakamaru approached him. Benkei first mistook the youthful warrior for a woman, and was prepared to let him pass before realizing his mistake. Before Benkei could strike, Ushiwakamaru distracted Benkei with a fan while jumping acrobatically into position. Though far larger, Benkei was out-matched by the swift fighter and consequently pledged himself to Ushiwakamaru’s service.
Yamaguchi Keizoro, Shunsen Natori Exhibition Catalogue, Kushigata, 1991, no. 70
Kozo Yamada, Shunsen Natori: Collection of the Kushigata Shunsen Museum of Art, 2002, p. 51, cat. no. 70