Segawa Kikunojo III (1751-1810) was one of the most popular actors of his day, achieving top rank in Kansei 1 (1789). He specialized in courtesan and urban-women roles, here playing a wife who assists her husband in avenging the murder of his master. In this renowned portrait, Sharaku uses subtle details of dress and gesture to reveal the character of Oshizu, just as Kikunojo is said to have accomplished on stage. The loose hair on her forehead and head band imply a distracted state of mind. Suzuki Juzo comments in "Sharaku", Masterpieces of Ukiyo-e (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1968), that by tucking the right hand into the obi Sharaku brings out not only the smallness and femininity of the figure but also the weak nature of Oshizu. He adds that "The print is a masterpiece to be numbered among the best of Sharaku's half-length portraits of onnagata" .
This print is a variant state with make-up above the eyes. For states with make-up see:
Yamaguchi, "Sharaku", Ukiyo-e taikei, Vol. 7 (Tokyo: Shueisha, 1973), pl. 9; Yamaguchi, Sharaku no zembo (Tokyo: Tokyo Shoseki, 1994) pl. 6; Keyes et al, Dai Sharaku ten (Tokyo: Tobu Museum of Art/NHK, 1995), pl. 6
For states without make-up see:
Vignier and Inada, Estampes Japonaises... Et Exposées au Musée des Arts Décoratifs en Février 1909, reprinted in 2 vols., (Geneva: Minkoff Reprint, 1973), pl. LXXI, no. 286; Yoshida, Ukiyo-e taisei, Vol. 8 (Tokyo: Toho Shoin, 1931), pl. 1; Suzuki, "Sharaku", Masterworks of Ukiyo-e (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1968), pl. 2; Hillier, Japanese Prints and Drawings from the Vever Collection, Vol. 2 (London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1976), no. 583; Keyes, Sharaku, portraits d'acteurs (Paris: Huguette Berès, 1980), no. 7; Narazaki, Sharaku, The Enigmatic Ukiyo-e Master (Tokyo, New York and San Francisco: Kodansha International Ltd., 1983), no. 70, p.45; Narazaki, "Museo d'Arte Orientale, Genoa II", Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1989), pl. 33; Narazaki, "Musée Guimet, Paris, I", Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1990), no. 172; Yamaguchi, "Sharaku", Meihin soroimono ukiyo-e, Vol. 5 (Tokyo: Gyosei, 1991), pl. 7
Keyes lists twenty-four surviving impressions of this print of which fifteen are held in the following museums and institutions:
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Art Institute, Chicago; Museo d'Arte Orientale Edoardo Chiossone, Genoa; British Museum, London; Staatliches Museum für Volkerkunde, Munich; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; Musée Guimet, Paris; Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Narodowe Museum, Prague; National Museum, Tokyo; Nihon Kikin, Tokyo; Osterreiches Museum für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna; Hiraki Ukiyo-e Museum, Yokohama
Another example of this print was sold in these Rooms, April 26, 1995, lot 32.