An Actor in a Female Role in Black Kimono, c. 1770-1790

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Segawa Kikunojø III (1751-1810) was one of the most popular onnagata (female role actors) of his time. With his distinctive facial features, it must have been easy for artists to create recognizable portraits of him. This also made it all the more interesting to show the actor in different roles and settings. Shunkø's depiction of Kikunojø (right) shows him wearing the white robes and lacquered cap of a shirabyøshi dancer. Kikunojø, likely in his twenties, looks fresh and delicate-fitting for the portrayal of a young female dancer.

Shun'ei, by contrast, depicted Kikunojø in his forties (left). In this image, he portrays a mature woman, bringing a dignified beauty to the role. As was customary of onnagata actors, he wears a murasaki-bøshi, a small piece of purple cloth to cover his shaved forelocks.

An Actor in a Female Role in Black Kimono
Artist Life
1762 - 1819
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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