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The actor Bando Mitsugoro II as Ishii Genzo

Color print of Japanese man with sword making a funny face.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Color print of Japanese man with sword making a funny face.




Toshusai Sharaku 東洲斎 写楽
Japanese, active 1794-95

About this artwork

Almost nothing is known of the life of Tōshūsai Sharaku, whose entire oeuvre of bold portraits of Kabuki actors was produced during a ten-month period in 1794–95. Sharaku’s prints are frank and piercing, combining satire with decorative power. His aggressive style is made all the more dramatic by his use of a dark mica background, which throws the silhouette of the posturing actor into strong relief. Depicted here is the actor Bandō Mitsugorō portraying the character Ishii Genzō at the peak dramatic moment of the play The Iris Sōga of the Bunroku Era (Hanaayame Bunroku Sōga). With a look of intense fury, Genzō draws his sword to aid his two brothers-in-law in avenging their father’s murder. The play is based on an event that occurred in 1701 that disrupted the civil order of the Tokugawa shogunate and scandalized the population of Edo. Commentary on contemporary issues was discouraged by the Japanese government, however, so the play was disguised as a literary recounting of a famous twelfth-century act of filial revenge that occurred in the Sōga family. Unlike the elite and highly stylized Noh theater, Kabuki was a popular form of drama that reflected and catered to the tastes and pleasures of the emerging merchant class.


On View, Gallery 107


Arts of Asia


Tōshūsai Sharaku


The actor Bando Mitsugoro II as Ishii Genzo


Japan (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Color woodblock print; oban


37.5 × 24.7 cm (14 3/4 × 9 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Clarence Buckingham Collection

Reference Number


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