Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Fifty-four Modern Feelings Matched with Tales of the Genji: Number 9 (Aoi) 1884. Oban.
This lovely print is from an 1884 series which parodies one of the famous Japanese romances of the 11th century 54 Chapters of Genji Monogatari by Murasaki-Shikibu. It depicts a group of Ama or female divers collecting abalone off the coast of Ise. By the time Kunichika had produced this series, 'Genji Fever' had already spread right across Japan in plays, prints and even household objects. This was inspired by a more recent retelling of the story rather than the original 11th century story.
The drawing of the figure is inspired by his teacher - Kunisada's - own version of the tale. The title is a pun on the word Genji; like so much of his work it evokes his continuous conflict between the ancient and modern. In this case Genji can be read in the context of the title as meaning 'contemporary times'.
The original poem in this chapter of the Genji compares his future wife, Murasaki No Ue, who was twelve at the time, to the potential blooming of seaweed hence the image of the abalone divers.
A beautiful print, full size but with trimmed borders. Good colour and impression, some marks and damage especially to the lower edge - overall good condition.
The print is illustrated in on page 65 of Amy Reigle Newland, Time Past and Time Present, Images of a Forgotten Master, Hotei Publishing 1999.
36.5 x 23.5 cm.