Kabuki Actor Ōtani Oniji III as Yakko Edobei in the Play The Colored Reins of a Loving Wife (Koi nyōbō somewake tazuna)
Tōshūsai Sharaku (Japanese, active 1794–95)
Edo period (1615–1868)
6th month, 1794
Polychrome woodblock print; ink, color, white mica on paper
15 x 9 7/8 in. (38.1 x 25.1 cm)
Henry L. Phillips Collection, Bequest of Henry L. Phillips, 1939
Not on view
The actor Otani Oniji II is captured here in the role of Yakko Edobe. A yakko is a manservant often used by samurai to perform violent deeds. Otani Oniji's leering face, shown in three-quarter view, bristling hair, and groping outstretched hands capture the ruthless nature of this wicked henchman. Sharaku was renowned for creating visually bold prints that gave rare revealing glimpses into the world of kabuki. He was not only able to capture the essential qualities of kabuki characters, but his prints also reveal, often with unflattering realism, the personalities of the actors who were famous for performing them. Because kabuki plays have relatively simple plots, the acting style of the performer is central to the performance. As a result, successful kabuki actors enjoyed great celebrity status. Unlike earlier masters, Sharaku did not idealize his subjects or attempt to portray them realistically. Rather, he exaggerated facial features and strove for psychological realism.
Signature: Toshusai Sharaku ga
Marking: Censor's seal: Kiwame
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.
Tokyo National Museum. "Tōshūsai Sharaku: His Art and Age," May 1, 2011–June 12, 2011.
Artist: After Tōshūsai Sharaku (Japanese, active 1794–95)Date: Probably late 1880s or early 1890sMedium: Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper with mica groundAccession: JP734On view in:Not on view