Theater Scenes

View right to left

Artist: Miyagawa Chōshun 宮川長春 (1683-1753)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 18th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (overall): 34.8 x 472.4 cm (13 11/16 x 186 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


child, drum, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, shamisen, theater, ukiyo-e
Provenance research underway.

This handscroll depicts eighteenth-century Japanese theatrical entertainments and their audiences in precise detail. Since the scroll is "read" from right to left, we first encounter a group of people moving toward the entrance of a theater. Those who are attracted by the announcements of the performance enter the theater toward the left.

As the scroll is unrolled further, the theater is revealed. An audience sits attentively on the floor, enjoying tea poured by a handsome young man, while a more privileged group occupies a raised platform, having brought picnic food an wine in a portable lacquer case. The puppets are operated from below. They are similar in type and scale to the puppets used in modern bunraku, where the puppeteers appear on stage during the performance.

Published References
  • Genshoku Ukiyo-e dai hyakka jiten. Tokyo, 1980-1982. vol. 2: p. 68.
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. p. 10, fig. 7.
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 54, pp. 72-73.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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