The Actor Otani Oniji as Omori Hikoshichi

Artist: Torii Kiyomasu II (1706?-1763?)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1743
Woodblock print; ink and hand-applied color on paper
H x W (overall): 31.4 x 15.1 cm (12 3/8 x 5 15/16 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, koto, portrait, theater, ukiyo-e, yakusha-e
Provenance research underway.

Kabuki actors were a popular subject of Japanese prints. Versatile and innovative, the top actors often played a wide range of male and female roles. In this print, the actor Otani Oniji I (1717-1757) performs as the warrior Omori Hikoshichi. He adopts a powerful, defensive pose and holds a koto as if it were a shield. His fixed pose is a mie, which is struck at critical moments in a play when all action stops momentarily to focus on the actor. It resembles the poses of the guardian figures at the gates of Buddhist temples, and is often performed in period plays such as this drama based on the Record of the Great Peace (Taiheiki, ca. 1372) - a narrative covering the disorder and warfare that attended Emperor Go-Daigo's efforts to restore imperial power in Kyoto. In this scene, the warrior has taken the place of Prince Morinaga, who has been threatened by a plot against the emperor. The artist Kiyomasu belonged to a family who specialized in actor prints. Like other early prints, this image was printed from a single block, with color applied by hand.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 4, pp. 60-61.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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