Kabuki Actor Sawamura Sojuro III

Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I 歌川豊国 (1769-1825)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1795
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 33.4 x 22.8 cm (13 1/8 x 9 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

actor, aiban, Anne van Biema collection, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kabuki, portrait, theater, ukiyo-e, warrior, yakusha-e

To 1971
Hans Popper (1904-1971) method of acquisition unknown [1]

Estate of Hans Popper, by inheritance [2]

Sale, New York, Sotheby Parke Bernet, "The Hans Popper Collection of Japanese Prints," October 5-6, 1972, lot 241 [3]

H. George Mann (b.1938), purchase from Sotheby Parke Bernet sale [4]

Sale, New York, Christie's, "Fine and Important Japanese Works of Art From Various Collections," April 22, 1987, lot 198 [5]

Anne van Biema (1915-2004) purchased at Christie's sale [6]

Estate of Mrs. Anne J. van Biema by inheritance [7]

From 2004
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of Estate of Mrs. Anne J. van Biema [8]

[1] See note 3. Hans Popper was a Viennese businessman and an accomplished amateur musician who resided in San Francisco, California. He specialized in the management and sale of commercial metals. He lived and worked in Japan for several years, selling salvaged metal. While living in Japan, he began to collect Japanese prints. By his death in 1971, he had amassed a collection of over 300 works of art that included important masterpieces by such artists as Hokusai, Harunobu, Utamaro, and Sharaku.

[2] The Sotheby Parke Bernet auction held in 1972 cites the Estate of Hans Popper as owner. See note 3.

[3] Sotheby Parke Bernet, "The Hans Popper Collection of Japanese Prints" [auction catalogue](New York, October 5-6, 1972), lot 241.

[4] See H. George Mann, "Sixty Years with Japanese Prints" eds. Julia Meech and Jane Oliver [book] (Highland Park: H. George Mann, 2021), p. 30. Mann reports that he "... loved the print in 1972 when I bought it at the Hans Popper sale."

[5] Christie's, "Fine and Important Japanese Works of Art from Various Collections" [auction catalogue] (New York, April 22, 1987), lot 198. See also H. George Mann, "Sixty Years with Japanese Prints," 30.

[6] Anne J. van Biema was an active member and officer of the Ukiyo-e Society of America (now known as the Japanese Art Society of America). She was among the earliest women to avidly collect in the area of Japanese woodblock prints. For an account of van Biema's purchase, see H. George Mann, 30.

[7] The Estate of Anne J. van Biema inherited upon her death and managed the transfer of property rights to the Freer Gallery of Art.

[8] See gift agreement, April 4, 2004, copy in object file.

Research completed February 3, 2022

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

H. George Mann
Hans Popper United States, born Austria, 1904-1971
Anne van Biema 1915-2004


Sawamura Sojvro III (1753-1801) performs the role of the high-ranking warrior, Ashikaga Yorikane. He wears a kimono luxuriously decorated with a spectacular pattern of chrysanthemums over a geometric background. This print, in a slightly smaller format than the Actors on the Stage (Yakusha butai no sugata-e) series, resembles that famous series in composition and style. However, the print is untitled, and the actor would have been identifiable only by his appearance. An inscription written in red ink at the lower left, perhaps by an early owner of the print, reads "Sawamura Tosshi," Sojvro's "poetry name" (haimyo).

Published References
  • H. George Mann. Sixty Years With Japanese Prints. Highland Park, IL, 2021. p. 29, fig. 16.
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 24, pp. 100-101.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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