The Actor Yoshizawa Ayame I

Historical period(s)
Edo period, 18th century
Ink, color, and lacquer black on paper
H x W (image): 88.2 × 33.7 cm (34 3/4 × 13 1/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

actor, balcony, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kabuki, kakemono, theater, ukiyo-e

To 1900
Bunkio Matsuki (1867-1940), Boston, to 1900 [1]

From 1900 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Bunkio Matsuki in 1900 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [2]


[1] See Original Kakemono List, L. 228, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Bunkio Matsuki (C.L. Freer source) 1867-1940


Yoshizawa Ayame I (1673-1729) was one of the most famous onnagata (actors of women's roles) in the history of kabuki. From his debut on stage in the Kamigata (Kyoto-Osaka) theaters, he excelled in the portrayal of women. Later, in Edo, he achieved such perfection in his acting that new superlatives were invented to describe his skill in the annual actors' critiques (Yakusha hyobanki). Ayame once wrote that an onnagata should become as close as possible to a woman in his daily life in order to portray his character more convincingly. Wearing an elegant kimono decorated with a pattern of pine branches, the actor sits on an outdoor bench holding a sprig of blossoming plum. A broken fan and scattered blossoms are strewn at his feet beside a sake cup, an ewer, and a tray of food.

Published References
  • Elisabeth West FitzHugh. A Pigment Census of Ukiyo-e Paintings in the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 11 Washington and Ann Arbor, 1979. pp. 27-38.
  • Harold P. Stern. Ukiyo-e Painting: Freer Gallery of Art Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition. Exh. cat. Washington and Baltimore, 1973. cat. 42, pp. 104-107.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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