The Actor Onoe Kikugoro VII as the Spirit of the Spider from Tsuchigumo Artist: Tsuruya Kōkei (Japanese, born 1946)

Sept 1993

Asian Art

Based on the Noh play by the same name, Tsuchigumo, or “earth spider,” is a Kabuki play that recounts the story of a failed attack on Lord Minamoto no Yorimitsu by a spider spirit. This print depicts Onoe Kikugorō VII, considered one of the most handsome Kabuki actors, as the determined, vengeful spirit. The grayish-pink face and long, black hair highlight the antagonistic nature of the figure. The artist achieved the spirit’s eerie gaze by painting the eyes with a white pigment, except for the black pupils that gaze upward. The mica-infused background gives off a sinister sheen, suggesting the light that would reflect off the evil spirit’s body in semidarkness. The patterns on the face recall arachnid anatomy.


Modern ukiyo-e: polychrome woodblock print on Ganpi paper from Kochi prefecture; mica ground


sheet: 15 1/4 × 9 3/4 in. (38.8 × 24.7 cm)
image: 15 1/8 × 9 5/8 in. (38.4 × 24.4 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Libertson

Accession Number



Heisei era (1989–2019)


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Herbert Libertson and Roni Neuer (Ronin Gallery), New York; gift in 2010 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • "Tsuruya Koukei Official Website," (accessed September 18, 2012).
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

color woodcuts

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