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Exhibit Catalog to the Morris County Historical Society's "Out of the Closet" Exhibition

Arashi Rikan III and Bando Shuka I

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Kunisada I
Actor Portraits of Arashi Rikan III and Bando Shuka I
Actors: (top right) Arashi Rikan III; (bottom left) Bando Shuka I
Circa mid-19th century
Woodblock print
9 1/2 x 13 1/2 in.
 
 
Found in the Collection.

Arashi Rikan III (top)
 
Arashi Rikan III was the pupil of actors Arashi Rikan II and Onoe Tamizo II. He was an incredible "kaneru yakusha," which meant that he could play a huge variety of characters - female roles, male roles, and villian roles. Arashi made a rather large name for himself in the cities of Kyoto, Osaka and Edo. He was a large-built actor, and his powerful voice was in part due to his build.
 
 
 
Bando Shuka I (bottom)
 
Bando Shuka I came from Edo and was a well-known "onnagata" (female impersonator), often playing strong-willed, courageous female roles. Between 1840 and 1854, he was as famous as his male-role stage partner Ichikawa Danjuro VIII. He took the stage name "Bando Shuka" because "Shuka" was his adopted father's pen name for his haiku poems. After his death, Bando was given the name of Bando Mitsugoro V, and his son, who was previously known as Bando Mitsugoro V, became Bando Mitsugoro VI.
 
 
 
The Onnagata Portrait
 
The ban on female kabuki performers, which was first enforced in 1629, meant that all female roles had to be taken up by male actors. These female impersonators were called "onnagata."
 
Ukiyo-e artists made a clear distinction between portraits of bijin (beautiful women) and onnagata (female impersonators), as one can see when comparing this actor portrait of Bando Shuka I with Kuniyoshi's bijin'ga. The strongly angular face and sharp nose of the female-impersonator Bando Shuka contrast greatly with the soft, delicate facial features of the beauty. Bando's stubby, thick fingers  are executed in much the same way as his fellow actor's hands, while the beauty's fingers are slim and feminine.
 
But the biggest difference between the two of them is, interestingly enough, their hairlines. For their roles, onnagata were forced to shave the forelocks of their hair in order to not seem too sexually attractive. The sharp hairline on Bando in this picture is indicative of his wearing a specifically onnagata wig, and, as his forelocks are meant to appear shaved, the hair on his forehead is gray rather than black. For a beauty picture, an artist would aim to make the hairline look as realistic and feminine as possible.
 
Ukiyo-e artists made sure that one could tell the difference between a portrait of an onnagata and a sensual picture of a beautiful woman - in a society that did not embrace homosexuality, they would certainly not want an onnagata print to be confused with a bijin'ga and accidentally become the object of the male viewer's desire!