Actors on Stage: Segawa Kikunojo III (Hamamuraya) as the Shirabyoshi Dancer Hisakata

Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I 歌川豊国 (1769-1825)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1794, 11th month
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 36.9 x 25.2 cm (14 1/2 x 9 15/16 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, dance, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, oban, portrait, theater, ukiyo-e, yakusha-e
Provenance research underway.

In Actors on the Stage (Yakusha butai no sugata-e), 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. Here the actor Segawa Kikunojo III plays the female character Hisakata, who performs a shirabyoshi dance. Shirabyoshi-a performance style in which women wore male attire, the black headwear of courtiers, and short swords while performing to rhythmical accompaniment-originated in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The actor strikes a pose that expresses his grace and beauty as he unfurls and displays the sleeves of his kimono.

Kikunojo was a versatile actor who often performed women's roles. Known to his fans by his yago, Hamamuraya, which appears after the series title of this print, he was a brilliant performer, especially in the demanding henge mono dance pieces in which the actor was required to change costumes and roles quickly as he enacted, for example, a ghost who could assume many different forms. Kikunojo commanded a large income and was held in such esteem that he was called Hamamuraya Daimyojin, a title associated with Shinto deities.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 23, pp. 98-99.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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