Ichikawa Yaozō III as Umeōmaru, 1796
Color woodblock print (nishiki-e)
Bequest of Richard P. Gale 74.1.191
Cat. no. 118
This image, part of a triptych, portrays a character in a play performed at the Miyako Theater in Edo in 1796. In the play, Umeōmaru and his two brothers, Sakuramaru and Matsuōmaru, are triplets who serve as carriage drivers for rival factions at court. Because the birth of triplets was viewed as auspicious, the three young men were assigned their positions in hopes that their presence would bring harmony at court. In the third act of the play, however, they break their familial attachments and fight bitterly to defend their masters. Umeōmaru (center), aided by Sakuramaru (left), confronts Matsuōmaru (right), whose master is the corrupt courtier Fujiwara no Shihei. Umeōmaru’s own master’s standing at court has already been jeopardized by Shihei’s evil machinations.
Only seven prints by the artist Kabukidō Enkyō are known. All are bust portraits of popular actors in the realistic style of Sharaku. Although there is no evidence that the two artists knew each other, there is little doubt that Enkyō was influenced by Sharaku’s dramatic style.