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The writing in the upper left identifies this as a portrait of the actor Nakamura Shikan in the role of Soga Gorō, the younger of the two Soga brothers. He is pictured frozen in a climactic, sculptural pose called mie (pronounced “mee-eh”). Highlighting a moment of emotional intensity, the mie is preceded by a rhythmic rotation and snapping into position of the head, with the actor glaring with one or both eyes crossed; it elicits shouts of approval and applause from the audience. Other aspects of note are the actor’s elaborate costume and the painting on his face, which is meant to emphasize the heroic nature of the character.
The term mitate can indicate an image of an actor in a role he never actually played.
Mrs. Kate Kiser Klein; given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1972.