This portrait depicts a role that appeared in “The Iris Soga Story of the Bunroku Period (hana ayame omoino kanzashi)” performed at the Miyako-za Theater. At a glance, this work seems to be simple, but it is said to be one of Sharaku’s best works. This is because Sharaku depicts not only the appearance of the actor but also the quality, dignity as an actor, personal characteristics, and nature of the character; that is the uniqueness of the art of Sharaku that no other painters could match. The portrait is an upper-body depiction of a samurai holding an open fan, and is made up of only three major colors: deep purple in the kimono, gold in the fan, and biotite in the background. These are just simple colors, but with them, Sharaku also depicts Sojuro’s attributes – “highly dignified and handsome looking”. Another significant feature is that of the curve of the face from the right eyebrow to his chin, as well as the general massiveness of the face itself. These details amaze us. Sojuro was sometimes described as “warm but there is a passion in his mind”. However, certain characteristics of Sojuro as an actor portrayed in this image say otherwise – the small eyes and tight lips. At a glance, this portrait looks simple and calm; however, the opened fan in front of his chest adds liveliness to the portrait. Again, we can see Sharaku’s well-sharpened sense of color tone.
Sojuro Sawamura III was the second son of Sojuro II. He was the brother of Yaozo Ichikawa III. People acclaimed him as one of the best actors of the era. He died in March 1801 at the age of 49.