Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Legends of Women of all Ages: Portrait of Chiyo-ni, 1863. Oban.
Click here for a full-size image.
This is a splendid and completely delightful print from a series celebrating the achievements of women in history. Most of the prints in the series were made over a long period between 1859 and 1864. It is a feature of nineteenth century ukiyo-e, this celebration of the achievements of great women… strong, bold, loyal, ferocious and in a way not much seen in other sophisticated cultures. The many women of valour or culture from Japanese history were well known to the highly educated Edo townspeople, and the portraits, whilst fanciful do not make any attempt to sexualise or exaggerate, in the way that western prints tend to do… even of figures such as Joan of Arc.
Kunisada portrays the historical character of Chiyo-ni, a Japanese poet who died in 1775 and is still regarded as one of the great Haiku poets. Chiyo-ni began writing haiku poetry at age 7. By the age of 17, she had become very popular all over Japan. Her poems, although mostly dealing with nature, work for a unity of nature with humanity. Chiyo-ni's teachers were the students of Bashō, and she stayed true to his style, although she did develop on her own as an independent figure. After becoming a nun, Chiyo took the Buddhist name, Soen. She is perhaps best known for this haiku:
the well-bucket entangled,
I ask for water
Kunisada shows her wrapped in a poem scroll which has taken on a life of its own! True to the nature of her work with nature, she is shown admiring the cherry blossom. The scroll is beautifully embossed and the colour is rich and dense. A fine deluxe print on thick paper, embossed, as mentioned, colour, condition and impression are all fine. A very good study from late in Kunisada’s career.
Published by Uoya Eikichi
Signed nanajūhachi-sai Toyokuni hitsu. ('Made by Kunisada in his 78th year.')
36 x 25 cm.