Utagawa Hirokage (active 1855 - 1865) Comical Views of Famous Places in Edo: Strange Events at Tomonoura in Asakusa, 1859. Oban.
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Hirokage was a pupil of the great Hiroshige and is known today for this humorous series which parodies his teacher’s famous series, Thirty-Six Views of Edo and for a triptych depicting a fight between the fish of the sea and the fruit of the land. The parody here is a little confusing, the scene in the print is attributed to both the legendary wickedness of foxes and the bad behaviour of badgers.
There is a tendency to favour the foxes since the print mimics the landscape of Hiroshige’s unusual landscape, New Year's Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree, Oji but the real culprits here are the badgers. Here is the antiquarian Henri Joly on the mischievous creatures… it is easy to see how Hirokage has parodied their worst attributes!
BADGER (TANUKI), the Racoon faced Dog (Nyctereutes Procyonides or Viverrinus) is one of the animals credited with magical or supernatural powers. As a Goblin it is a peculiarly mischievous creature taking all sorts of disguises to waylay, deceive or annoy wayfarers. Standing by the roadside on its hind legs it distends its belly (or rather Scrotum) and striking it with its fore-paws uses it as a drum, Tanuki no hara tsnzumi; wrapped in a kimono, it begs like an itinerant monk, waylays folks at night across paddy fields, causes fishermen to draw up their nets empty and only laughs at their misfortune. When in priestly disguise it is called TANUKI Bozu. It is often met with represented wrapped in lotus leaves and with a lotus flower doing duty as a hat, carrying in one paw a bill for sake.
There is more parody at work, the three villagers are apparently under the spell of the badger, holding their hoes up and parading like officials on a shogun parade. The badger is instructing them at the back. The full moon on the sky may indicate that seasonal magic is at work. This series by Hirokage is immensely well thought of and this is one of the smartest of the jokes played on the original Hiroshige set.
Colour, impression and condition are all fine. A copy of this print is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Publisher: Tsujiokaya Bunsuke (Kinshodo).
33 x 22 cm.