Kabuki Actor Sawamura Sojuro III (Kinokuniya) as Nagoya Sanza from the series Actors on Stage

Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I 歌川豊国 (1769-1825)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1794, 4th month
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 38.4 x 24.6 cm (15 1/8 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), hosoban, Japan, kabuki, oban, portrait, theater, ukiyo-e, yakusha-e
Provenance research underway.

In Actors on the Stage, Toyokuni created a highly successful series of more than forty known designs in the oban format, which allowed for a larger and more impressive image than the narrow hosoban that had been the dominant format for actor prints before the 1790s. The actor Sawamura Sojuro III-here identified by his family's "shop name" (yago), Kinokuniya-plays the role of Nagoya Sanza (Sanzaburo), a character based on a ronin who lived in the late sixteenth century. He carries the deep hat that was worn to conceal his facial features. Toyokuni's portrait series isolates each actor against a plain background, focusing effectively on one of his current roles. Kabuki fans could easily recognize their favorite stars by their appearance or by their "shop names," which are well known to kabuki audiences and are often shouted out in enthusiasm at key moments in a performance.

Published References
  • At the Museums. vol. XLIX, no. 1, 2003. p. 69.
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 22, pp. 96-97.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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