Photo © Photography: John Tsantes and Neil Greentree © Robert Feinberg
Gallery Text

The Kabuki play Musume Dōjōji (The Maiden at Dōjōji Temple) is a famous tale of unrequited love. Spurned by the monk who is the object of her affections, a young woman transforms into a malevolent snake spirit, ultimately wrapping herself around the temple bell inside which the monk has hidden. The unfortunate monk is incinerated by the heat of her desire. While this painting depicts a scene from the play, the true subject is celebrated Kabuki actor Segawa Kikunojō III, a specialist renowned for his portrayal of female characters. He is pictured here during a climactic moment in his performance as the lovelorn maiden. His prominent nose, delicate eyes, and elegant, feminized hands would have made him immediately recognizable to contemporary fans.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Utagawa Toyokuni, Japanese (1769 - 1825)
Segawa Kikunojō III as the Shirabyōshi in “Musume Dōjōji”
Work Type
painting, hanging scroll
c. 1794–1801
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Edo period, 1615-1868
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3500, Special Exhibitions Gallery
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Physical Descriptions
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
painting proper: H. 94.8 × W. 48 cm (37 5/16 × 18 7/8 in.)
mounting overall: H. 185 × W. 61.3 cm (72 13/16 × 24 1/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: Ichiyūsai Toyokuni-ga
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Elizabeth de Sabato Swinton, The Women of the Pleasure Quarter : Japanese Paintings and Prints of the Floating World, exh. cat. (New York, NY, 1995), pl. 87, p. 177

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, exh. cat., Yomiuri Shinbunsha (Tokyo, 2013), p. 166, cat. 84

Exhibition History

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 05/21/2013 - 07/15/2013; Miho Museum, 07/20/2013 - 08/18/2013; Tottori Prefectural Museum, 10/05/2013 - 11/10/2013

Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/14/2020 - 07/18/2021

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at