Paul Binnie Kunisada's Danjūrō

Paul Binnie “Kunisada's Danjūrō” artwork
The fifth design in the series Edo Zumi Hyaku Shoku (A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo) is now complete, and has already had surprising success with tattoo enthusiasts, as well as print collectors. The new design was rushed by Japanese Gallery, London, to their large exhibition space within the London Tattoo Convention for the first week in October, where it was hung with a selection of around a dozen of my tattoo prints, and has been seen by thousands of tattoo artists and devotees. The design of this new print shows one of the favourite actors of the early 19th century Kabuki theatre, Ichikawa Danjuro VII (1791-1859), as portrayed by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1854), an artist who was particularily interested in this star actor. He was a member of Danjuro's fan club, often used him as a subject for surimono (privately published prints) and followed the actor's career faithfully, representing him innumerable times until his death. In the tattoo, Danjuro is depicted in the first performance of a play called Kakitsubata Iromoedozome in the fifth month of 1815, while the cartouche image shows him in the distinctive red kumadori make-up of the character Kamakura no Gongoro in one of his signature pieces, Shibaraku. Taking the dramatic pose with the sword in the print as my starting point, the model is posed to reflect the motion of striking with his short sword, which allowed the tip of the sword to break out of the frame and into the margin, and it has been heightened with pale blue mica to catch the light. Additionally, Danjuro seems to stand on the frame edge below, while the model's elbow breaks the frame on the right side, and as I have played games with my own seal in each design for this series, here I have transformed the letters of my name into the Mimasu mon (three-rice-measures crest) of Ichikawa Danjuro. This new design is en suite with the preceeding prints from the Edo Zumi series, printed in an edition of 100, and with the same sort of black-to-grey shaded baren sujizuri background, which gives a distinctive circular printing. Signature and title are as before in bronze metallic pigment, and the print is in my regular Oban size, around 43 x 30 cm or 17 x 12.5 inches.
Paul Binnie,
Paul Binnie
Kunisada's Danjūrō
Japanese title
Kunisada no Danjūrō 国貞の團十郎
Series title
A Hundred Shades of Ink of Edo
Japanese series title
Edo sumi hyaku shoku 江戸墨百色
Colour woodblock print on paper
Paper dimensions (h × w)
42.2 × 31.5 cm
Image dimensions (h × w)
38 × 29 cm
Edition size
Artist's proofs
1 known
Paul Binnie
Paul Binnie
Handsome Men (Bidanshi 美男子)
Tattoos (Irezumi 刺青)
Tattooed version of Sword
Paul Binnie: A Dialogue with the Past - The First 100 Japanese Prints, , p. 132, no. 95
Metropolitan Museum of Art collection
Catalogue number
95 (L163)
Supplementary images