Contemporary tale of the three heroes
Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III
1786 - 1865
The man in this image is the kabuki actor Kawarasaki Gonjuro (later known as Ichikawa Danjuro IX) playing Liu Bei, one of the three heroes of the Chinese novel 'Romance of the three kingdoms'. His tattoos show peonies and lions, an old design that originated in China. In legend, lions are attracted to peonies which symbolise wealth and power. The peony was also one of Gonjuro's crests. The bats on the fan, an indicator of summer, represent good luck.
The print was designed by Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), who was one of the most popular and prolific ukiyo-e artists at the end of the Edo period.
Contemporary tale of the three villains
Place where the work was made
woodblock print; ink and colour on paper
35.0 x 24.3 cm
Signature & date
Signed c.l., in Japanese, ink [incised on block] "Toyokuni ga [picture by Toyokuni]".
Bequest of Kenneth Myer 1993
Not on display
Where the work was made
Shown in 1 exhibition
Heroes and Villains, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 May 2001–19 Aug 2001
Referenced in 3 publications
The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The Floating World', Sydney, 2003, 254 (colour illus.).
Heroes and villains: from Japan's floating world, Sydney, May 2001, 6. cat.no. 1.18
Art speaks Japanese: Japanese language education kit from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2007, colour illus.. card no. 11