Tōshusai Sharaku Famous Actors


Tōshusai Sharaku Famous Actors
Print set

Tōshusai Sharaku
Mainichi Newspaper


Print is Public Domain; Photography is:   Creative Commons License


This massive production is one of a number of major projects undertaken by the Mainichi Newspaper organization in the 1980s. This was the 'bubble era', when money flowed pretty freely, and projects that would not have been commercially viable in more 'normal' times, found willing purchasers. This set of 28 prints sold for 550,000 yen at the time, a price that most of us now would consider quite 'optimistic'.

The prints in this series, close-up okubi-e portraits of kabuki actors, were originally produced in 1794 and featured actors from several plays: Hana-ayame Bunroku Soga (performed at the Miyako-za Theatre), Katakiuchi Noriyaibanashi and Hana-shōbu Omoi no Kanzashi (performed at the Kiri-za Theatre), and Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura (performed at the Kawarazaki-za Theatre). Each portrait had a striking black-gray mica backdrop, an opulent (and costly) addition to any print. In this reproduction series, the edges of the portraits were purposely printed in lighter pigments to mimic fading which could be seen in the original prints from age. The mica sections of the paper were also purposely crumpled to mimic the mica backgrounds of the originals (which had been cracked by age). It is clear that the Mainichi Newspaper was dedicated to producing a series of prints that very closely imitated the originals.

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