The Actors Iwai Shijaku I as Hisamatsu and Osome

Artist: Shunbaisai Hokuei (active 1829-1837)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1833
Ink, color, silver mica and brass on paper
H x W (overall): 37.3 x 50.3 cm (14 11/16 x 19 13/16 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, diptych, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, lantern, lovers, oban, portrait, theater, ukiyo-e, yakusha-e
Provenance research underway.

Tragic love affairs, which often ended in double suicides, attracted deep public sympathy both onstage and in life. The love-suicide of Osome and Hisamatsu, which took place in the first decade of the eighteenth century, was so widely known that it quickly became a subject of popular ballads and kabuki plays. This beautiful diptych by the Osaka artist Hokuei conveys much of the emotional resonance of the play's performance in Kyoto in 1833. Iwai Shijaku I (1804-1845) played both principal roles as well as others for a total of seven in this performance. In this print, the actor is shown playing both lovers, who are each betrothed to another. Onstage, they would appear alternately, appearing and disappearing behind the stage set. The graffiti on the plaster wall of the storehouse gives the names of the lovers beneath an umbrella, followed by oatari (great hit) and "Iwai Shijaku of Kyoto." The design and the exquisite printing of this diptych make it one of Hokuei's finest theatrical prints.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 62, pp. 176-177.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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