Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Fifty-four Modern Feelings Matched with Tales of the Genji #16: Sekiya - Fireworks on the Sumida River, 1884. Oban.
A beautiful picture of domestic life in Edo, this river scene - one of the finest of the series - shows fireworks on the Sumida river, a pleasure boat and a group of women joining the throng of boats for the spectacle. It’s no coincidence that there are so many Genji genre prints in an exhibition about women. The novel, Fifty-four Chapters of Genji Monogatari, often credited with being the first ever written (also by a woman in the 11th century) is an account of pleasure and palace intrigue and of the love affairs and passions of its protagonist, prince Genji. Genji fever was widespread in Japan in the nineteenth century especially following the rewriting of the novel in the 1830’s as a satire by Ryutei Tanehiko with illustrations by Kunisada. Rustic Genji (as it was called) captured the popular imagination and there can be a great deal of confusion as to which novel Japanese prints of the period are referring. The series and number here, are identified in the black cartouche and the chapter is identified in the bar like motifs of the open book. In many prints for the series these references do not correlate and there are instances of missing chapters and of several illustrations for a single chapter (meaning some chapters are omitted altogether). Hence in this example, the print is numbered 27, the chapter though is identified as chapter 6.
All this is to say that it is extremely difficult to understand how the pictures relate to the narrative. The print itself is a delight; we see the crowded river beyond, the fireworks exploding in the night sky and the beautifully described boat in the foreground.
The print is a fine, early impression, fine colour and in very good condition, trimmed to the image at left and bottom edges.
Published by Takegawa Seikichi.
23cm x 34cm.