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signed Shunsen with artist’s red maple leaf seal, published by Watanabe Shozaburo, ca. 1952
dai oban tate-e 16 by 10 7/8 in., 40.5 by 27.5 cm
The actor Ichikawa Jukai III (1886-1971) is in the role of Kimura Nagato no Kami from the play Kiri Hitoha (A Paulownia Leaf). Written by Tsubouchi Shoyo (1859-1935), the play combined traditional kabuki elements with methods drawn from Shakespeare and other figures from Western dramaturgy in shin kabuki (lit. new kabuki) style. Shoyo was a leading innovator in kabuki theater and translator of foreign texts whose work greatly contributed to the changes kabuki experienced in the Meiji period.
Kimura is a loyal retainer of Toyotomi Regent Katagiri Katsumoto, an older man whose grip on power is slowly waning in the face outside aggression from the future Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) and distrust by members of his own court. After Katsumoto agrees to peace terms with Ieyasu, the Toyotomi court enters a state of open rebellion. In spite of the turmoil Kimura remains faithful to Katsumoto, and throughout the play foils coup attempts and defuses dangerous court intrigue. In the final act, Katsumoto decides to retire and passes his responsibilities on to his most loyal friend and ally, Kimura. The departing Katsumoto observes a falling leaf (lit. kiri hitoha) and describes it to Kimura as an allegory for the failing Toyotomi clan and his own decline.
Yamaguchi Keizoro, Shunsen Natori Exhibition Catalogue, Kushigata, 1991, cat. no. 80
Kozo Yamada, Shunsen Natori: Collection of the Kushigata Shunsen Museum of Art, 2002, p. 52, cat. no. 72
Samuel L. Leiter, Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theater, 2014, pp. 267-268 (re: play)