The Actor Ichikawa Danjuro V as Raigo Ajari
The inscription on this print does not name the actor or the role he is playing—when the print was released, the subject would have been evident to Kabuki fans. The square emblem on his costume’s sleeve indicates that the actor is one of several who went by the name Ichikawa Danjūrō. His character carries prayer beads and a box inscribed with the word for “monk.” However, his shaggy, unkempt hair indicates that he is a former monk who has stopped shaving his head and succumbed to temptations and evil influences. Wayward monks are a relatively common theme in Japanese theatrical literature, so it is difficult to pinpoint the exact character or drama depicted here.
Color woodblock print on paper
Sheet: 12 1/16 x 5 15/16 in. (30.9 x 15.1 cm)
Image: 11 7/8 x 5 15/16 in. (30.1 x 15.1 cm) (show scale)
Katsukawa Shunsho ga
Museum Collection Fund
Condition: Good, slightly faded, stained along right lower corner.
Remarks: Characters on box which actors holds reads: Gyoja (monk).
The subject is playing the role of a monk gone bad (identifiable as such because of his shaggy short hair, indicating that his tonsure has been allowed to grow out, and by his box, which reads "monk"). The precise identity of the monk is unknown.
One suggestion is that he is playing Raigo Ajari. The character Raigo Ajari appears in the play "Nue no Mori Ichiyo no Mato" (Forest of the Nue Monster: Target of the Eleventh Month) and elsewhere. Although the full plot of the play does not survive, the central story has been recounted in various forms. After fasting for 100 days, the monk Raigo Ajari pleads with Minamoto no Yorimasa to construct an ordination platform for a Buddhist temple. Not only is his request rejected, the monk is poisoned and dies. He then returns as an angry spirit and takes his revenge, either turning into an army of rats or summoning that army, to eat the library of a rival temple.
Depictions of Raigo Ajari show him emaciated from fasting, with certain rat-like qualities to foretell the end of the story. The character comes to be associated with the year of the rat and hence appears in astrological texts. Artists before and after Shunsho depicted the subject in various ways.
Historic accounts tell of Danjuro V appearing in the very first production of Nue no Mori Ichiyo no Mato at the Nakamura theater in 1970, but in the role of Shibaraku. This was perhaps the same production that inspired Shunsho's image of another actor in the role of Raigo Ajari (see below).
Shunsho made two different images of another actor (Nakamura Nakazao I) in the same role, in a print dateable to 1770.
Shunsho depicted Danjuro V in a wide variety of roles, including that of other rogue monks, such as Wantetsu (1778) and Mongaku (c. 1784).
This item is not on view
Katsukawa Shunsho (Japanese, 1726-1793). The Actor Ichikawa Danjuro V as Raigo Ajari, ca. 1772. Color woodblock print on paper, Sheet: 12 1/16 x 5 15/16 in. (30.9 x 15.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 16.552 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 16.552_IMLS_SL2.jpg)
overall, 16.552_IMLS_SL2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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