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Standing figure of an actor



Miyagawa Chōshun


1683 – 1753

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Portrait of an onnagata
    Portrait of an onnagata of the Kabuki theatre
    Place where the work was made
    Shôtoku era 1711-1715 Edo (Tokugawa) period 1615 - 1868 → Japan
    Media categories
    Scroll , Painting
    Materials used
    hanging scroll; ink and colour on paper
    110.0 x 53.0 cm image; 209.3 x 69.0 x 75.0 cm scroll
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation Purchase 1987
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Miyagawa Chōshun

    Works in the collection


  • About

    A classic but bold 'ukiyo-e' image, this beautifully poised figure conveys a mood of solitude and studied introspection which contrasts with the showy and dramatic costume. It is an image that combines, in that uniquely Japanese way, qualities of reticence and flamboyance. The nature of the dress, the small, tightly fitting cap, the theatricality of the pose, all suggest that this is an image of an 'onnagata', or female impersonator of the kabuki theatre. Kabuki developed in Edo Japan in response to a growing demand among the emergent mercantile class for a type of theatre more entertaining and accessible than the long-established classic noh theatre patronised by the upper classes. The Edo authorities sought to control possible abuse and prostitution in the new world of the kabuki by banning women and young boys from participating. Thus there arose a role for female impersonators and the 'onnagata' became a skilled, highly appreciated and sought-after category of actors, known for their subtle and convincing portrayal of every nuance of female demeanour.

    Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 277.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 13 publications