The Actor Nakamura Utaemon III as Taira no Tomomori

Artist: Ryūsai Shigeharu 柳斎重春 (1803-1853)
Publisher: Wataya Kihei 綿屋喜兵衛 (c. 1809-1885)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1831
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 37.2 x 24.7 cm (14 5/8 x 9 3/4 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

actor, Anne van Biema collection, Edo period (1615 - 1868), ghost, Japan, oban, portrait, theater, ukiyo-e, yakusha-e
Provenance research underway.

One of the most famous plays in the kabuki repertoire is Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees (Yoshitsune sembon zakura). Originally written for the puppet theater, the play liberally rearranges history in its account of the tragic rivalry between the Taira and Minamoto warrior families in the late twelfth century. In the play, after the defeat of the Taira forces in the Battle of Dannoura (1185), Taira no Tomomori (1151-1185), who committed suicide in the historic battle, lives on and disguises himself as his own ghost to attack Yoshitsune's ship. He is stopped by the power of the Buddhist monk, Benkei, a loyal follower of Yoshitsune. Utaemon wears the blue makeup that is customary for ghost roles. With arrows piercing his armor, he makes his final stand. The fine composition and printing in this image gives it a high artistic quality and finesse.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 60, pp. 172-173.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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