The Actor Onoe Kikugoro III as the Ghost of Yonakiishi

Artist: Utagawa Sadanobu 歌川貞信 (1809-1879)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1841
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 36.7 x 24.6 cm (14 7/16 x 9 11/16 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, Edo period (1615 - 1868), ghost, haiku, Japan, kabuki, oban, portrait, theater, ukiyo-e, yakusha-e
Provenance research underway.

The prominent Edo actor, Onoe Kikugoro III (1784-1849), here performs at Osaka's Kado Theater in a play based on the Fifty-three Stations along the Tokaido (Tokaido gojusantsugi), the main road linking Edo and Kyoto. The actor plays the ghost, Yonakiishi, who wears a dark blue obi tied in front of her kimono. The blue and silver tones create an eerie image against the darkness represented by the black background. The haiku (hokku), signed with the actor's poetry name, Baiko, likens a hototogisu (little cuckoo), a messenger from the other world in Japanese folklore, to a restless spirit who cannot find salvation:

 The little cuckoo,
 flitting aimlessly,
 traverses the path of love.

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. 67, pp. 186-187.
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.