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The Actor Osagawa Tsuneyo II as Kojima

Tōshūsai Sharaku is the most mysterious of all Japanese print designers. His prints appeared suddenly in May 1794, and just as suddenly disappeared from view in January 1795. In a career that spanned less than a year, he produced about 150 prints, a few paintings, and some preparatory drawings, exclusively for the Edo publisher Tsutaya Jūsaburō. This rare example of Sharaku’s work—it may be only one of two worldwide—originally formed the right-hand side of a triptych. Published in the eleventh month of Kansei 6 (December 1794), the triptych celebrates the actors in the Kabuki play Matsu wa Misao Onna Kusunoki. The actor in this print is Osagawa Tsuneyo II in his role as the female lead, Kojima, disguised as a gardener. The actor’s strong face—with its large nose and long, pointed chin—is presented with an air of delicacy, in contrast to the boldness of his kimono and obi.

Tōshūsai Sharaku
Japanese, active 1794–1795
The Actor Osagawa Tsuneyo II as Kojima
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
12 x 6 1/8 in. (30.4 x 15.5 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 70.4.68