Danjuro V by Arlene Altman

2nd Place, Japanese Embroidery

Almost two years ago while at an exhibit of Japanese woodblock prints in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I fell in love with a print of a Kabuki actor named Danjuro VIII. I thought it would be an interesting piece if replicated in Japanese silk embroidery and so I proceeded to look for a suitable copy of the print from which to work.

However, while looking for Danjuro VIII, I found another print equally interesting of another Kabuki actor named Danjuro V. And was I ever surprised to find that I had picked a grandfather-grandson pair without trying and without realizing it for quite a while in the process.

After giving it quite some thought, I ended up using Danjuro V as my subject as his face was by far the most interesting. It turns out after more research that this particular rendition of V by the artist Sharaku is considered to be one of his masterpieces and is based on V’s character, Takamura Sadanjo, in the Kabuki play “Koinyobo Somewake Tazuna.” The artist was known for drawing his images in unflattering realism rather than in idealized beauty.

The techniques, threads, and stitches available to me are as defined by the Japanese Embroidery Center while the particular stitches and colors I used were developed jointly by Shea Pendray and myself.