Kunisada, The Fox Matagoro and Masatsura

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) The Fox Matagoro and Masatsura, 1850’s. Chuban.

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This small chuban print by Kunisada is unusual… Kunisada made very few chuban pieces, this one is a delight… delicate and finely drawn and composed.  It is a strange image this… the standing figure is holding a lantern in his outstretched arm and the night sky is indicated by the delicate shading at the top of the print. There is then the strange figure of the pleading man, bound up in an oversized and ill-fitting kimono.

This print illustrates one of the many popular stories that surround foxes, superstitions, and their mysterious habits. An Emperor (Masatsura) is visited by a woman who wants to be his wife. The same woman is brought again by a guard called Matagoro. The Emperor becomes suspicious and tosses Matagoro a sake cup, which he stumbles to retrieve in the snow, revealing his fox’s footprints. He takes his true form and his female companion Ben no Naisha reveals herself as his fox wife. They are there to retrieve the fox skin drum, owned by Masatsura and made from the skin of Matagoro’s father. The Emperor takes pity on them and gives them the treasure they so much want.

Kunisada illustrates the scene where the fox spirit Matagoro is unmasked by the Emperor. The print is in fine condition except for a repaired wormhole to the right edge Colour, impression and condition are all fine.

18 x 25 cm.