Nishimura Shigenaga, The actor Sanjō Kantarō as a tea-seller, a woodblock print

Edo period, about AD 1720-30

The onnagata (female impersonator) Sanjō Kantarō plays the Kabuki role of a seller of Uji tea carrying her portable stall. The print is hand-coloured in shades of red, pink and purple, all now somewhat faded. Glossy glue has been applied to the black over-kimono to give the effect of lacquer and there are sprinklings of brass dust on the obi sash, the butterfly crest on the sleeve and the lid of the kettle.

Kantarō has slipped off the right sleeve of the over-kimono to show off the elaborate under-kimono patterned with designs of waves and chrysanthemums. The overall elegance of the figure, especially the cocked little finger, suggests the he may be playing the role of some famous beauty in humble disguise.

The tea implements are also drawn with great care, and we can see clearly all the details of the brazier and kettle with bamboo tea-scoop, tea jar, water pot and small cups.

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More information


L. Smith (ed.), Ukiyo-e images of unknown Japa (London, The British Museum Press, 1988/89)

L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)


Height: 328.000 mm
Width: 159.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA 1906.12-20.049


Arthur Morrison Collection


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