Iwai Hanshiro IV as Shigenoi

by Sharaku (active 1794 - 1795)

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Iwai Hanshiro IV as Shigenoi by Sharaku (active 1794 - 1795)

Sharaku (active 1794 - 1795) Japanese Woodblock Reprint
Iwai Hanshiro IV as Shigenoi

Sharaku - Not much is known about the woodblock print artist Toshusai Sharaku, who specialized in kabuki portraits. His career spanned only ten months from 1794 to 1795, with around 150 prints known. Unlike his contemporaries, Sharaku did not idealize his subjects, instead creating realistic portrayals that were not always flattering, and his prints were not a popular success at the time. His best works convey a rare perceptivity, with a psychological insight and a deep understanding of the dramatic nature of the roles and the actors he depicted. Sharaku left behind a body of masterworks of ukiyo-e kabuki portraiture that remained unrecognized until a century after his death.

Comments - Lovely Sharaku portrait of the wet-nurse Shigenoi in the drama "Koi Nyobo Somewake Tazuna" as portrayed by Iwai Hanshiro IV. In one of the most poignant scenes from the play, Shigenoi parts from her young long-lost son without revealing his identity, to save her master's daughter from embarrassment at being the foster sister of a lowly groom. She looks over her shoulder with an anxious, slightly sad smile, holding an amulet bag in her hand. She wears a fine kimono in pale peach patterned with butterflies, with an outer robe in violet lined with soft red. A moving design, considered one of Sharaku's best, with a lovely dark silver mica background.

Woodblock reprints - In the 20th century, artists and publishers collaborated to recreate famous woodblock prints for interested Japanese collectors and Westerners looking for rare designs. New blocks were made, and the prints were painstakingly printed by artisan printers in the same method as the 19th century originals - one block for each color. Woodblock reprints were an opportunity to collect and enjoy a famous design at a small fraction of the price of an original. They still are today.

Artist - Sharaku (active 1794 - 1795)

Image Size - 14 3/4" x 9 1/4" + margins as shown

Condition - Excellent overall with no issues to report.

Iwai Hanshiro IV as Shigenoi by Sharaku (active 1794 - 1795)
Iwai Hanshiro IV as Shigenoi by Sharaku (active 1794 - 1795)