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the whites of the eyes highlighted with mica; signed Toyokuni ga within the artist’s Toshidama cartouche, with publisher’s seal Kichi Isekane (Iseya Kanekichi) and block carver’s seal Horiko Takejiro (carved by Takejiro), with nanushi censor seals Muramatsu and Fukushima, and date seal Ne no Ju (year of the rat , tenth month)
oban tate-e 14 7/8 by 10 1/4 in., 37.7 by 26 cm
This is a half-length portrait of the actor Nakamura Utaemon III (d. 1838) in the role of Shajin (Toneri) Umeomaru. Umeomaru is one of triplets from the play Sugawara Denju Tenari Kagami (Sugawara’s Secrets of Calligraphy), each named for a different kind of tree. Ume means plum, ironically, as Umeomaru is assaulted by the thunder god Sugawara at Mt. Tempei with incendiary plum leaves.
The poem in the cartouche is by the Heian period (794-1185) waka poet Fujiwara no Okikaze:
Tare o ka mo
shiru hito ni sen
matsu mo mukashi no
tomo nara naku ni
Who is there left
that really knows me?
Though the pines of Takasago
have always been there,
I cannot call them ‘friends.’
Translation by John Carpenter, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (www.metmuseum.org), accession no. 1979.407.2