Baido, Rare Uncut Omocha-e of Battledores

Hosai Baido (1848-1920) Rare Uncut Omocha-e of Battledores, c1885. Oban.

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Toy prints or omocha-e are highly collectible, especially multiples such as this in an uncut form. The print is by the Meiji artist Hosai Baido who went by a confusing number of names in a long, successful career. Baido was an artist who sailed through a variety of artistic careers and stylistic changes. Born in the age of Kuniyoshi, he was essentially and instinctively an Utagawa artist (studying under Kunisada at the age of eleven), and his early mature works are nearly indistinguishable from those of Kunichika with whom his signatures and prints are frequently confused. He was known as Kunimasa IV and after becoming the last of the Utagawa artists was also known by Kunisada III, Toyokuni V and sometimes, even more confusingly, as Toyokuni IV.

The print represents the equipment used in the Japanese game of Hanetsuki. The game is played in the New Year and is somewhat like badminton, but played without a net, using solid wooden paddles called hagoita and brightly coloured shuttlecocks. The aim is to keep the shuttlecock in the air for as long as possible in order to gain protection from mosquitoes in the coming year. The bright hovering shuttlecocks obviously in some way represent the mosquito and the batting action of the hagoita is also obvious. Traditionally the bats are decorated with pictures - often kabuki actors - and these are sold at special fairs called Hagoitaichi at Asakusa Temple in December. The decorative backs that almost always illustrated kabuki heroes were either pasted woodblocks or padded satin cloth.

These designs though are too small I think to be used on actual bats and therefore represent actors in pairs from famous plays to be cut out and probably pasted in scrap books or on toy battledores.

A rare piece to have survived uncut, the colour and impression are good and the condition is good overall if a little scuffed in places.

24.5 x 37 cm.