Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Eight Views of Night Visits to Temples and Shrines (Yomairi hakkei): Hitotsume, 1844. Oban.
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A fine print from one of the outstanding series of prints that Kuniyoshi made at the height of his powers in the 1840’s. Following moralising reforms of the early 1840’s a period of censorship ensued and subjects such as this enabled them to produce prints of women under the guise of virtuous and moral exemplars. The title of this series refers to night visits to Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Each print combines a picture of a beautiful woman from the waist up with a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine in the background. The women portrayed in these prints are identical to those in the series Women in Tazuna-striped Fashions Visiting Shrines on Festival Days. This series is listed as number 102 in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961).
This print shows a woman washing her hands at Benzaiten Shrine in Hitotsume whilst in the background there is a view of the Sumida River and the Ichi-no-hashi Bridge. Benzaiten was a Buddhist goddess (originating with the Hindu goddess Saraswati) and the personification of wisdom in Tokugawa Japan. Her temple at Edo remains in Inokashira Park in modern day Tokyo.
It is a lovely object, the woman - typical of Kuniyoshi of the period - is delicately drawn but in some ways it is the monochrome silhouette of the river and the boat traffic that is the subject. This metropolitan scene, the bustling river observed, finds itself transposed into impressionist views of the river Seine in Paris forty years later… Seurat’s Bathers at Asnieres from 1844 carries just the same unobserved calm and busyness. A copy of the print is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
A great print, outstandingly fresh, colour and impression are fine. There is a professional paper repair to the upper left and the print has been expertly backed onto conservation paper. Overall condition is very good.
Publisher: Ibaya Senzaburô (Dansendô).
36 x 24 cm.