The Actor Yamashita Kinsaku I Performing the Tea Vendor’s Soliloquy

Maker(s)
Artist: Torii Kiyomasu II (1706?-1763?)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, mid 1720s
Medium
Woodblock print; ink, hand-applied color, brass powder and embossing on paper
Dimensions
H x W (overall): 32.3 x 15.5 cm (12 11/16 x 6 1/8 in)
Geography
Japan
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
S2004.3.2
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Print
Type

Woodblock print

Keywords
actor, Anne van Biema collection, Edo period (1615 - 1868), hosoban, Japan, tea, theater, ukiyo-e, WWII-era provenance, yakusha-e
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Label

Vocal performance was an important skill for kabuki actors. The actor Yamashita Kinsaku I plays a female vendor of hojicha (roasted tea) who presents an amusing sales pitch. The speech, which may have been intended for amateur recitation by kabuki fans, fills the print. Such stage speeches (serifu) were lively and entertaining, but they also demonstrated the actor's skill in vocal performance. The speech reads, in part:

"Have a taste of some fresh-roasted tea!

It's just right for both a leisurely flower-viewing excursion and to meet an urgent need. . . . First of all, tea did not begin in India, nor did it originate in Japan. Rather a person from [China] called [Shen Nong] was the first to take a drink of tea.  Later, the Reverend Myoe. . . brought some as a souvenir. . .and it has remained popular ever since.
As for its efficacy, tea brings youth to the elderly and makes everyone feel healthier. That is why the character for "tea" is written from a combination of the characters for "twenty-year-old," "person," and "tree."

Now, the old crone has her tea-water jar, tea ladle, tea bowl, tea pouch, . . . and her tea container, containing tea, and a one, and a two, and a three, and a tea for two, and old and young, and whatever-That's it!"

Translation of text by Lawrence E. Marceau

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, with contributions by et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 2, pp. 56-57.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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