The Actor Iwai Hanshiro IV

Artist: Toshusai Sharaku
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1794
Ink, color and mica on paper
H x W: 36.9 x 24.3 cm (14 1/2 x 9 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock Print

actor, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kabuki, theater, ukiyo-e, yakusha-e
Provenance research underway.

Sharaku's dramatic portraits of actors, which often focus on the head and torso, are among the most famous images in the history of Japanese prints. This print portrays the actor Iwai Hanshiro IV, a leading actor of women's roles (onnagata), in the role of the nurse Shigenoi. Sharaku's focus on the facial features and expression of the actor can be compared to the full-figure portrait of the same actor in the print by Toyokuni (F1974.97). The shimmering, dark mica background in Sharaku's print heightens the stark realism of the portrait and is a striking feature in many of the artist's actor portraits. The patterns of the costume were once printed in warm reds and yellows, which have nearly faded away. Little is reliably known about Sharaku, whose brief and brilliant production of actor prints continues to stimulate debate, speculation, and imaginative fiction.

Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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