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TWO MILLION MYSTERIES

 

   

Ukiyo-e Prints

浮世絵版画

   
    Port Townsend, Washington    

 

UTAGAWA KUNIHIRO

川国広

うたがわくにひろ

(fl. ca. 1815-43)

Subject: Ashikaga Yorikane (on the left)

and Takao (on the right) on the courtesan's boat.

Iwai Shijaku I as Takao

岩井紫若

高尾

いわいしじゃく

たかお

Sawamura Tosshō I as Ashikaga Yorikane

沢村訥升

足利頼兼

  On 11/2/09 I realized that I had made a mistake

and had posted the wrong kanji characters for

Yorikane. It has been corrected now. Sorry!

さわむらとしょう

あしかがよりかね

Publisher: Tenki

天喜

てんき

Size: Each sheet is 14 1/4" x 10"

Date: Circa 1835

Illustrated: Catalogue of Japanese Art in The National Gallery, Prague,

The International Research Center for Japanese Studies: Niehibunken Japanese Studies Series 5, n.d, p. 30, #180.

ORIGINALLY ON SALE FOR

$620.00

NOW ON SALE FOR

$440.00

SOLD!

 

 

                       

 

    Kunihiro was one of several Osaka artist who could be classified as amateurs because they made their living by other means. (1) According to Roger Keyes "...there is virtually certain evidence that Kunihiro was the artist-proprietor of Tenki for nearly twenty years." (2) Edo had not seen an owner/artist since the death of Okamura Masanobu in 1764. However, "A tradition of artist-proprietorship for at least one of the three major Osaka publishers would help explain the high standards of Osaka printmaking, and deserves further study." (3)

1.  Today we think of amateurs usually in terms of non-paid sports figures, but originally the term derived from the Latin root word for "love". In 18th century France an amateur was usually a wealthy collector who also produced decent works on his own.

2.  The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints, by Roger Keyes, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973, p. 28.

3.  Ibid.

 

I HAVE TO ADMIT

 

That I have learned an incredible amount of information

some of it accurate

since I started working in this web site.

 

 

And one of those new things is that I love the visual nature of the the theme of Takao and Yorikane. That is why I have assembled so many different examples to offer to you and everyone else --- at least for your viewing pleasure. Hope you enjoy them half as much as I do.

 

Click on any of the examples shown in this section to see those specific pages. Don't forget the bedroom scene in the section immediately above this one. There will be more in the future. 

 

 

     
   
     
  Below is an example of Yorikane going solo. Click on the image to be taken to that web page.  
   

 

 

Kunihiro's first known print from ca. 1816 was published by Wataki. That may have been the year that the near monopoly on the production of multi-colored actor prints in Osaka was broken by the appearance of several new publishing houses. Within a few years Kunihiro appears to have become the head of Tenki publishing and along with three other publishers they effectively blocked new competitors from the market --- thus they now had the monopoly.

 

The information provided above is based on Keyes. He also noted in the Philadelphia catalogue that Hirosada may eventually have succeeded Kunihiro as the owner of Tenki publishing.

Publisher's mark:

Tenki

   

Artist's signature:

Kunihiro ga

       

 

 

       
     
Detail of backside of right hand panel.      
       

 

When we are young

 

and before we learn to read we learn to recognize symbols and images. Ever drive by a MacDonald's with a three year old in the car? Ever drive by a MacDonald's with a play area and that same three year old? Doesn't matter what time it is the kid wants to stop and play.

 

On a recent "60 Minutes" episode called "The Eyes Have It" a rather unconventional Harvard professor, John Stilgoe, was interviewed by Steve Kroft about his teaching technique. Stilgoe takes his students out of the classroom and walks them around the streets of Cambridge looking at everything from manhole covers to fire hydrants. He  asked Kroft if he had ever noticed the white arrow on the side of the FedEx truck. He had not. Then Stilgoe pointed it out. Until that moment I had never seen it either. The professor went on to point out that literate people tend not to see it, but if you ask a pre-literate child where it is they more often than not can show you. They are unencumbered by the lettering.

 

I mention all of this because ukiyo-e prints are filled with visual devices which were easily recognizable by their contemporary viewers. We are divorced from those times and their images. Just as a MacDonald's arch would mean nothing to a nineteenth century Japanese we are unaware of their spectral language. But that doesn't mean we can't learn them too. That is why I have chosen to isolate certain theatrical elements common to both prints of Norikane and Takao which I am offering on this site. The images shown below make the point better than any words can.

 

 

 

Detail of Takao's hairpins  from a Kunisada diptych 1821. Click the image above to see that print.

 

Detail of Takao's hairpins  from this Kunihiro diptych.

 

 

 

 

 

  Repetition of Takao's hairpin leaf motif in the Kunihiro diptych.   Repetition of Takao's hairpin leaf motif on her koto in the Kunisada print. Click on the image above to see the whole print.  
   
Yorikane's hairstyle as portrayed by Kunihiro.   Yorikane's hairstyle as portrayed by Kunisada. Click on the image above to see the whole print.   Yorikane's hairstyle as portrayed by Hirosada. Click on the image above to see the whole print.
         

 

CORAL
珊瑚
さんご
 
     
Detail above of the coral on a Shigenobu print.
Detail above of the coral motif on the robe of an Eizan figure.      
      Detail above of a coral motif on a Kuniyoshi print.  
         
         
         
***Note: Coral has great symbolic significance in both the East and West. The Christ child was occasionally portrayed wearing or holding a coral amulet which was believed to ward off disease.

 

THE FINEST KABUKI SITE ON THE INTERNET!
 
http://www.kabuki21.com/index.htm
 

For additional information about

and images  by various artists of

Iwai Shijaku I

link to the web site below.

(Note that this actor like most of his successful peers performed under several different stage names.)

 
HANSHIR‘ VII
 

For additional information about

and images  by various artists of

Sawamura Tossho I

link to the web site below.

(Note that this actor like most of his successful peers performed under several different stage names.)

 
SAWAMURA S‘JŘR‘ V
 

 

 

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