Comparison of Beauties in the Theatrical Mirror: Okoma Arranging Her Lover Saizaburô’s Hair

Accession Number

Comparison of Beauties in the Theatrical Mirror: Okoma Arranging Her Lover Saizaburô’s Hair

Hosoda Eisui

Object Creation Date
circa 1799-1800

Medium & Support
large full-color woodblock print (nishiki e) on paper, large-size (ôban)

22 in. x 18 in. ( 55.9 cm x 45.7 cm )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
In 1798–99, Kitagawa Utamaro did a magnificent series of prints of famous historical and fictional lovers, entitled "True Feelings Compared: The Founts of True Love" (Jitsu kurabe iro no minakami ). Close on the heels of that success, Ichirakutei Eisui issued his own series, which closely mimics Utamaro’s "big head" close-up format, and with the same cast of characters. The pair shown here, Shirokiya Okoma and Obana Saizaburô, were star-crossed lovers whose tale first appeared on the kabuki stage in 1775.
After they had been forcefully separated, the once-prosperous Saizaburô was reduced to being a hairdresser.
This print represents the rare occasion where the spin-off surpasses the original. In Utamaro’s version, Okoma crouches before Saizaburô, pleading with him to "speak no more of their love." In Eisui’s reworking of the theme, she stands over him, clearly the more resolved and resourceful of the two. She uses her own hairpin to adjust his coiffure, in a gesture that is both delicate and intimate.
M. Graybill
"Courtesans, Cross-Dressers, and the Girl Next Door Images of the Feminine in Japanese Popular Prints"
3/9 - 9/1/02

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
color print

Collection Area

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ukiyo e

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& Author Notes

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