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A Fashionable Female Version of the Shikisanban

Utagawa Toyokuni I
Late 18th-early 19th century

In mid-dance, the central figure gracefully holds an open fan adorned with an aged pine tree as she flings her sleeve above her head. Clad in a green over-robe (kariginu) featuring a kumo tatewaku (cloud rising stream) pattern with blue five-lobed mokko crests, she wears a black kimono beneath, whose hem is embellished with a spray of green and gold circular floral designs.

In this painting, fashionable women represent characters of the Shiki-Sanban (three-rites) ceremonial dances, traditionally performed in Noh theatre. A ritual piece performed as an invocation for peace and prosperity. The figures can be identified by their elaborate costumes, distinct eboshi hats and accoutrements. The round-hatted dancer with a fan in her right hand represents the high-ranking deity Okina. On the right, Senzai represents youth, characterised by an angular hat and a lacquer mask box. To the left is Sanbaso, the God associated with good harvest is distinguished by a tall, pointy hat. In the traditional performance, Okina and Sanbaso wear masks of old men. In this rendition, however, we are met with bare youthful faces, the absent masks likely still stored within Senzai’s closed box secured with a silk tassel rope.

This work is based on the print titled "Furyu onna shiki sanba"(A Fashionable Female Version of the Shikisanban) printed around 1783-94 by Utagawa Toyokuni I.

There is evidence of tampering with this painting, where the painter's signature has been scrubbed off (lower right). Additionally, both seals bear the sign of having been washed. It is unclear as to why this was done. There is a possibility that this work was once sold as something it is not, but we cannot be certain without past documentation.

It is possible that object information will be updated as new research findings are discovered. Please email if you can improve this record.

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