Nakamura Shikan III (三代目中村芝翫 1810-1847) began his acting career in Edo in 1815 under the name Nakamura Saizô. Showing the potential to achive artistic and popular success on the stage, he was adopted by his grandfather, the Osaka superstar Nakamura Utaemon III, in 9/1818, whereupon he took the geimei (stage name: 芸名) Nakamura Komanosuke I. He joined Utaemon III in relocating to Osaka in the fall of 1819. About six years later, he changed his geimei again, in 11/1825, becoming Nakamura Tsurusuke II. His final name change took place in 1/1836 when he ascended to the illustrious geimei of Nakamura Shikan III. He continued to score triumphs on Kamigata stages, and by 1/1840 was ranked highly in the Kyoto yakusha hyôbanki (actor evaluation books: 役者評判記) for tachiyaku (leading male roles: 立役). In his maturity, Nakamura Shikan III developed into a skilled kaneru yakusha ("all-around actor": 兼ねる役者), but, sadly, he was not destined to live a long life. His last performance took place in 10/1847 at the Onishi Theater, Osaka. It is said that during the Tenpô kaikaku (Tempô reforms: 天保改革) that imposed punitive sumptuary laws, Shikan III was applauded by the authorities for his modest way of life and upstanding character, unlike some of the matinee idols who led extravagant lifestyles and found themselves in trouble with the bakufu (the shogunate's administrative arm of government: 幕府).
The play, theater, and production date are currently unknown for this deluxe-edition design.
This is our first offering of a print by Yoshitsugu, whose works are very rare. Virtually nothing is known about him, other than what is indicated on this and at least one other print, namely, that he was a pupil of Sadayoshi (act. c. 1837-53; himself a pupil of Gochôtei Sadamasu, act. 1832-54).
Metallics have been applied to the robe, sword hilts, and poem. Shikan's robe is patterned with stylized tsuru (cranes: 鶴), a mon (crest: 紋) used by the Nakamura Utaemon lineage of actors. Performing the role of a samurai named Osakabei Genzaburô, Shikan holds a partly unrolled scroll. Tsuta (ivy leaves or vines: 蔦) hang above, and behind him there is only a funereal black void.
The poem (in gold-color-brass) is signed by Shikan III (Sandaime Shikan, 三代め 芝翫); it can be only partly deciphered (Uku hisu [ ... ] O [...] naku mo [ ... ]: うくひす [...] お [...] なくも [...]).
References: SDK, no. 547