Kabuki Theater (Right screen)


Kabuki Theater (Right screen)

Paintings / Edo

By Hishikawa Moronobu (died 1694)

Edo period, 17th century

Color on paper



Important Cultural Property

This work comes from a set of two 6-panelled folding screens. Painted by Hishikawa Moronobu, an ukiyo-e artist from the early Edo period, it depicts a theater used for performances of kabuki, one of Japan's traditional performing arts, though only the right-hand screen is on display today.
The entrance of the theater is shown on the right. Signboards on either side of the entrance list the performances, while several men tout for customers. The stage lies beyond the entrance. On it, the entire cast is dancing flamboyantly. The audience is chatting, laughing, and generally having a riotous time as it sits watching from the floor. One child is seated on his mother's lap while another mother is breastfeeding. On both sides of the stage, ladies of high standing watch through bamboo blinds alongside men sitting separately behind folding screens. These are probably the best seats in the house. The facial expressions, gestures, and fashions of the performers and audience are depicted in a vivid, meticulous fashion. The painting skillfully conveys the vibrancy of the theater experience.
At 170 centimeters high, the screen is around 20 centimeters larger than usual. This suggests it was made by special commission.

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