Osagawa Tsuneyo II in a Female Role, 1794
Color woodblock print (nishiki-e) with mica background
Bequest of Richard P. Gale 74.1.187
Cat. no. 133
This distinctive visage is that of the well-known onnagata (female impersonator) Osagawa Tsuneyo II (1753–1808). However, the exact role has yet to be identified. Sharaku may have depicted Tsuneyo in a role that he did not actually perform—that of Sakuragi in Koinyōbō somewake tazuna at the Kawarasaki Theater in 1794.
In the play, Sadanoshin decides to commits suicide to atone for his daughter’s sins. In this print, Tsuneyo’s sad eyes and tense lips are details that would convey Sakuragi’s distress over her husband’s fateful decision. Although Tsuneyo did not play Sakuragi in Koinyōbō somewake tazuna, Sharaku perhaps thought he should have been cast in that role, since Tsuneyo excelled in expressing latent emotion. Thus, this print might present Sharaku’s ideal casting rather than a record of an actual performance.