The Actor Nakajima Kanzaemon


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. Shunshō (1726–93) was a leading artist of the Katsukawa school, which emphasized realism rather than idealistic or dream-like portrayals of traditional ukiyo-e subjects. He helped develop nishiki-e (full-color prints) in 1765, along with artist Suzuki Harunobu. Shunshō particularly revolutionized actor prints in 1770 by introducing nigao-e, half-length portraits with detailed facial features, rather than the conventional full-length portrait. This print of the actor Nakajima Kanzaemon is from the series Ehon Butai Ōgi (Illustrated book of fan-framed actors), in which he first demonstrated this style.

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1 print : woodcut, color ; 28.1 x 16.8 centimeters


  • From the series: Ehon butai ōgi : Illustrated book of fan framed actors.

Last updated: September 18, 2015