The Actor Nakamura Utaemon III as Kan Shojo

Artist: Shunkōsai Hokushū 春好斎 北洲 (fl. ca. 1810-1832)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1823
Ink, color, brass,and silver on paper
H x W (overall): 39 x 26 cm (15 3/8 x 10 1/4 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

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

Nakamura Utaemon III appears here in the role of Kan Shojo (Sugawara no Michizane, 845-903) in the kabuki play, Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy (Sugawara denju tenarai kagami). The performance took place in the third month of 1823 and Utaemon performed seven roles. The play is loosely based on the biography of the ill-fated aristocrat and calligrapher who was maneuvered into exile by his rivals at court. This portrait has a printed wood-grain background and frame with black ornaments that represent iron fittings. The effect replicates an ema, a votive panel presented as an offering at a Shinto shrine. The word hono (offering) is written (right to left) at the top of the frame. A haiku (hokku) signed Shikan, Utaemon's poetry name, expresses his pleasure that with the arrival of spring he can wear flowery robes and the cotton textiles from Kawachi:

 Spring has arrived-
 so I don flowery robes
 and Kawachi cotton.

Translation of poem by John T. Carpenter

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 50, pp. 152-153.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.