Ichikawa Ebizō IV as Takemura Sadanojō in the Play Koinyōbō Somewake Tazuna
Tōshūsai Sharaku (Japanese, active 1794–95)
Edo period (1615–1868)
Polychrome woodblock print; ink, color, white mica on paper
14 7/16 x 9 1/3 in. (36.7 x 23.7 cm)
The Howard Mansfield Collection, Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1936
Not on view
In this portrait, one of Sharaku's most famous works, Ebizō Is acting the part of a samurai warrior of tremendous integrity at a moment of insufferable moral conflict. Indeed, in the succeeding moment he will commit seppuku, or suicide by disembowelment, to preserve his honor. Ebizō's realization of his inescapable fate is apparent in his hands, which are clenched with enormous tension, while his eyes seem to peer out of a face devastated by the pain of his fatal dilemma. Sharaku has arranged the drapery folds to amplify the anguish expressed by the hands and orchestrate the transition between the two focal points of the composition—the hands and eyes.
In the late eighteenth century, this actor was the fourth holder of the name "Ichikawa Danjūrō," the most prestigious position in the world of Kabuki. Since he preferred his personal name, "Ebizō" was inscribed by brush on the upper right corner of this portrait, the only such inscription among extant impressions of this print.
Signature: Toshusai Sharaku ga
Inscription: By a contemporary hand : Kansei roku nen kinoye tora, aki ku gatsu (Autumn, ninth month, tiger year, Kansei 6 - 1794)
Marking: Censor's seal: Kiwame
Howard Mansfield , New York (until 1936; sold to MMA)
Katonah Museum of Art. "Ukiyo-e: Japanese Prints (1680–1850) from Various Collections," September 24, 1977–November 6, 1977.
Nagoya City Museum. "Ukiyo-e from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 14, 1995–May 28, 1995.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Drama of Eyes and Hands: Sharaku's Portraits of Kabuki Actors," September 20, 2007–March 24, 2008.