The Actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu in the Role of Shakkyō Dancer


The term ukiyo-e, literally “pictures of the floating world,” refers to a genre of Japanese artwork that flourished in the Edo period (1600–1868). As the phrase “floating world” suggests, with its roots in the ephemeral worldview of Buddhism, ukiyo-e captured the fleeting dynamics of contemporary urban life. While being accessible and catering to “common” tastes, the artistic and technical details of these prints show remarkable sophistication, their subjects ranging from portraits of courtesans and actors to classical literature. This print depicts popular Kabuki actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu performing the lion dance, a highlight of the play Shakkyō (Stone bridge). Although benizuri-e (two-color prints) was the most common genre of ukiyo-e in the 1740s, Okumura Masanobu (1686–1764) produced this print in the style of urushi-e (lacquer painting). Urushi-e, in which a coating of glue was applied to certain black areas in a composition to give them a glossy texture, had been popular in the 1720s. Masanobu included a gourd logo of his publishing company, Okumura-ya, in the bottom center of this picture.

Last updated: September 18, 2015