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Kunisada

Iwai Kumesaburo III as the Shirabyoshi Dancer Asakeno (1852)

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  • Capturing the beauty of the original artwork

    Every one of our prints is made using the Giclee printing process, for a museum-quality look and feel that does justice to the original art.

    Giclee printing is the gold-standard for preserving the meticulous detail and stunning colors that we love in the Japanese masters. All our prints are fade and fingerprint resistant, so you can enjoy their beauty for years to come.

    We chose to offer 12”x18” (30cm x 45cm) as this was closest to the “chuban” size sheets used for woodblock prints historically.

    All of our prints come with matte finish for a more authentic appearance.

    Framing Options:

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    Ready-to-Hang and Made to Last

    Mounting brackets are included and centered on our framed prints and canvas wraps.

    All of our prints are made to last, with fade-resistant colors and materials. See how they arrive in the unboxing videos below.

  • About the Art

    In an extraordinary costume blooming with flowers, a Shirabyôshi dancer glides across a bridge.

    This image derives from the kabuki play "The Book of the Eight Dog Heroes", commonly referred to as ‘Hakkenden’. The story is based around eight half brothers who are descendant from a dog, bearing the word ‘dog’ in their surnames. Like many Kabuki plays, one of the main inspirations was the Chinese epic novel "The Water Margin", but also Buddhist philosophy and shintoism. In the original story, Asakeno is born a boy but brought up a woman in order to escape the deadly machinations of a rival clan. Asakeno applies to become an imperial dancer and is accepted.

    Tall and good-looking, the actor Iwai Kumesaburô III was an incredibly popular 'onnagata', or female impersonator. As female kabuki performers were banned in 1629 due to their prostitution, kabuki was performed with an all-male cast and actors would specialise in either masculine or feminine roles. Here he poses as Asakeno; a 'Shirabyōshi' dancer, which is a traditional female dancer who performed in the Japanese imperial court. 

    An interesting contrast is that Shirabyōshi dancers actually wore men’s attire, inspired by Shintoism, and even carried swords when they danced. Note the 'tate-eboshi' hat the actor wears, which was a hat traditionally worn by samurai.

    Shirabyōshi literally translates to mean "white rhythm", due to their pale make-up and the slow rhythmic music they’d dance to. Interestingly, centuries later the trademark white make-up became associated with geisha. Asakeno wears a kimono patterned with peonies, suggesting wealth, fortune and honor. In Asakeno’s hand is a 'kawahori', a hand-fan carried by men, patterned with chrysanthemums; a symbol of long life and rejuvenation and is the official emblem of Japan’s imperial family.

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    You can find full details regarding shipping and delivery here.

    We're sure you'll love your prints. However, if there are any problems with the printing, we're happy to offer a free exchange or refund 100% of the purchase price. Simply return the print within 30 days. For full details of our refunds and exchanges policy click here.


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