Kunisada, Portraits from Hit Plays of Both Historical Stories and Modern LIfe - Ukai Kujuro

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Portraits from Hit Plays of  Historical Stories and Modern Life (Jidai sewa atari sugatami): Ichikawa Kodanji IV as Ukai Kujuro, 1858. Oban.

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This is a tremendous print. Comparable to the best of Kunisada’s output, the quality of the print resembles the famous series Toyokuni Manga Zue of 1859; and the subject matter uses the same device of having popular actors performing roles in elaborate costumes, many of which were imagined performances that had never taken place. In this case, the actor Ichikawa Kodanji IV plays Ukai Kujuro from the play Tomioka Koi no Yamai Biraki.

Kunisada portrayed the same actor in this role in 1824, in The Glories of the Provinces of Japan. Ukai is a word in Japanese for cormorant fishing; fishing with birds. The play is likely one of the numerous urban dramas that populated kabuki theatre programmes in the mid nineteenth century. The play in question is most likely Hanagumori sato no getakasa, "Wooden Sandals and Umbrellas on a Cloudy Day amidst Cherry Blossoms".

The series, Portraits from Hit Plays of Both Historical Stories and Modern Life (Jidai sewa atari sugatami) is a beautifully produced group of prints. We see the fisherman Kojuro collapsed drunk by a barrel of saki, a broken umbrella beside him. In the background a beautifully realised nocturne of the Yoshiwara district. The print is superbly preserved, the colours and condition are very fine indeed. The sky is rich with scattered mica, Kujuro’s robes are embellished with burnishing and deep embossing. A superb exercise in tone and depth.

Publisher: Uoya Eikichi

Blockcutter: Hori Take.

36 x 25 cm.