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Ichimatsu Sanogawa III as Onayo the prostitute at Gion cho

Ichimatsu Sanogawa III as Onayo the prostitute at Gion cho

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Onayo appears “HanaAyame Bunroku Soga” played by Miyako-za Theater in may of 1794 (Kansei 6). We cannot help recognizing Shayaku’s art out of Onayo’s appearance: her face is big like a fox, nose and eyes are like a man; on the other hand she wears gaily kimono and shimada coiffure with hairpin. This is because Ichimatsu is an actor who plays a female role. Actually, this attire might be awkward; however, we won’t see any other portraits of an actor who disguised a woman: Sharaku depicts this very realistically. We cannot help feeling amazing the portrait that depicts the actor’s face like a fox. In short, Sharaku depicts the truth of onnagata, an actor disguises female role that is unique in the world. In 1784 (Tenmei 4), he became Ichimatsu III, and he turned his role to a male and changed his name to Aragoro Ichikawa. He did in intercalary month of November of 1814 (Bunka 11) at the age of 55. He was in “jyojyokichi”, the second highest ranks for the female player as an actor of middle standing.

 

 

Sharaku Toshusai(birth and death dates unknown)

Birth and death dates unknown.

In 1794 (Kansei 6), Sharaku came into sudden prominence, produced more than 140 ukiyo-e paintings during the mere ten months of his activity as an ukiyo-e painter, and then disappeared forever. For his debut work, he used the large, o-ban printing size, and expensive biotitic background printing, which was unusual. Juzaburo Tsutaya, a publisher, enthusiastically promoted Sharaku after Utamaro had left him. Meanwhile, the printing size was getting smaller. One of the major reasons for this was that Sharaku’s way of drawing actors as they were, regardless of their popularity, was not accepted by people of the era. However, each of his portraits is full of energetic impression and gives a positive impact. Because of this, he also received high acclaim from abroad.

 

Selections of Sharaku Toshusai

Sharaku Toshusai(birth and death dates unknown)

One of the reasons why Sharaku’s works are precious is that so few exist. Unfortunately, his art was recognized abroad before it gained popularity in Japan. While the Japanese were blind to his talent, many of the works ended up abroad and were praised. Some of the works were brought back to Japan as part of the Matsukata Collection in 1943 (Showa 18), which increased the number of his popular works in Japan. These forty works were reissued from the collection. Each of them represents one of Sharaku’s great masterpieces.

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