Segawa Tomisaburō II as Yadorigi in the Play "Hana Ayame Bunroku Soga"
Tōshūsai Sharaku (Japanese, active 1794–95)
Edo period (1615–1868)
Polychrome woodblock print; ink, color, white mica on paper
H. 14 5/8 in. (37.1 cm); W. 9 7/8 in. (25.1 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund and Rogers Fund, 1949
Not on view
Female roles in Kabuki theater were acted by oyama or onnagata, men who specialized in female impersonation. The skill and ambiguous dual status of such performers were a source of great fascination to the Kabuki audience. Here, for example, the clothing, coiffure, and gesture of the male actor epitomize those of a fashionable and beautiful woman. Indeed, in his imitation of a woman's gesture, the actor tugs at his garment with a sinuous feminine panache more exaggerated than real. Yet, reflecting the contradictory status of the actor, Sharaku has subtly confirmed the distinctively male squareness of Segawa Tomisaburō II's jawline.
One of the means by which Sharaku gave his portraits of Kabuki actors great force was the sharp contrast between the figure and the monochrome background. This monochrome consisted of a layer of deep indigo blue ink onto which silver mica dust was sprinkled. As this print demonstrates, the lush background set off the colors of the face and kimono to great effect.
Signature: Oban; Toshusai Sharaku ga
Inscription: Handwritten inscription gives the name of the actor; date 1794, 5th month.
Tokyo. Japan Ukiyo-e Society. "Foreign Countries Preserving Ukiyo-e Masterpieces," January 4, 1972–February 22, 1972.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Japanese Prints of the Classical Period," June 6, 1972–July 2, 1972.
New York. Japan Society Gallery. "Japanese Prints from the Ledoux Collection," September 1, 1973–November 25, 1973.
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.