closed YAKUSHA-E

The show

The corridor dedicated to Japanese ukiyo-e polychrome prints houses a selection of works ranging from 1760 to 1830 and that fall into the yakusha-e genre, that is the portraits of the most famous actors of the kabuki theater, real stars of the Edo period (1603 -1868).
The kabuki theater, at that time, occupied an important place in the cultural life of the main Japanese urban centers, whose citizens loved to follow the exploits of the most famous actors and buy the prints that portrayed them. The relationship between the prints, or rather the artists and printers, and the actors was fundamental and mutually beneficial: the former were all the more sold the more famous the latter were and the fame and popularity of the latter increased thanks to the spread of the former. .
Torii Kiyomitsu (1735-1785), head of the third generation of the Torii school, best expresses the graphic potential of benizuri-e, the prints that have a limited number of colors: karatamo red, green, yellow, indigo and brown. The artist's production exemplifies the transition period that will lead to Nishiki-e polychrome prints. The three prints exhibited at the MAO well convey the balance that the artist achieves: the static setting of the figures inherited from the past is here softened by a new grace that will inspire the artists of subsequent generations.
The subsequent nucleus of prints presents a selection of works by Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825), an artist who dominated the market for about thirty years, in particular with a series of prints of portraits of stage actors characterized by technical perfection. The soft and sinuous stroke that outlines the figure of a dancer and the decisive and powerful one that captures the samurai at the peak of the action reveal Toyokuni's ability to use technique as a vehicle for the characterizations of the different characters protagonists of the same drama. To be caught in the typical theatrical poses are, for example, the actors Onoe Matsusuke I2 (1744-1875) and Onoe Eizaburo I3 (1784-1849) who interpret two of the forty-seven protagonists of the famous play entitled Kanadehon Chushingura , centered on the heroic deeds of samurai who avenged the death of their lord Asano Naganori , before ending their lives through seppuku.
Revenge with honor is the inspiring theme of many Japanese dramas, such as "A vow of assistance to the sanctuary of Mount Hiko", which stars Rokusuke and his wife Osono - portrayed in a diptych exhibited at the MAO in which the actors are respectively Onoe Matsusuke II2 (1784-1849) and Sawamura Tanosuke II2 (1788-1817) - and is the inspirational theme of countless modern transpositions, including the Hollywoodian Edward Zwick's The Last Samurai with 2003 Tom Cruise or Carl Rinsch's 47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves from 2013.
The last section, on the other hand, is a small tribute to two of the most famous Japanese artists, Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige . It is a selection of landscape-themed works: five prints in koban format by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) from the series entitled "Little Tōkaido" and four by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) from the series "In the 53 stations of Tōkaido ".

Timetable and tickets


Via San Domenico, 9-11
10100 Turin


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