The Actor Nakamura Tomijuro I Performing a Double Role

Artist: Torii Kiyonobu II (fl. ca. 1725-1760)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1742, 7th month
Woodblock print; ink, hand-applied color and brass powder on paper
H x W (overall): 31.8 x 15.3 cm (12 1/2 x 6 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

actor, Anne van Biema collection, Edo period (1615 - 1868), hosoban, Japan, kabuki, portrait, theater, ukiyo-e, yakusha-e
Provenance research underway.

The actor Nakamura Tomijuro I (1719-1786) here performs a double role (futariyaku) as both Katsuragi, the male role shown here, and Osaku, a female role. The style of his acting contrasts to the bold aragoto style. Double or multiple roles, which proliferated in the competitive world of kabuki actors to seven or more in the nineteenth century, displayed the actors' skills in characterization, movement, and vocal performance. Tomijuro was a specialist of women's roles (onnagata), a skill he had learned from his father, Yoshizawa Ayame (1673-1729), an onnagata so accomplished that new superlatives had to be invented to rate his skills in the actor critiques (yakusha hyobanki). Designed by Kiyonobu, an artist of the Torii school who specialized in portraying kabuki actors, this print features a detailed rendering of the stage set in which a woman's shadow can be seen behind the sliding paper shoji. The color on this print is well-preserved, and includes glittering metallic particles and glossy black, embellishments found in hand-colored prints known as urushi-e (lacquer prints) for their resemblance to lacquer ware.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 5, pp. 62-63.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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