Kunisada, Woman with Nanten Berries

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Woman with Nanten Berries, c1839. Kakemono-e (vertical double oban).

Probably the finest Kunisada print that we have shown, this kakemono-e of a strolling woman dates from around 1830 and shows an elegant woman - a courtesan judging by her hair adornment - in an expensive and highly decorative kimono; but there’s something strange going on here if we look more closely.

Not only is she wearing a beautiful kimono, she is also adorned with real berries which burst out of the decorative pattern of the material and festoon her shoulders, arms and legs. These bright red berries are Nandina (nanten in Japanese) or heavenly bamboo berries, identifiable by their distinctive leaves, seen on the arm of the kimono. This plant is common in China and Japan and signifies winter and well being. Its name is homonymic with both difficulty and change lending the plant the supposed belief that it can make misfortune disappear. It is used decoratively in the New Year where it also symbolises longevity.

It is likely that this beautiful print is from a series of mitate prints comparing women or courtesans with the times of the year or with festivals - this particular one being either winter or the new year festival. The long format or kakemono-e is designed to be stored as a scroll and also hung in recesses in the house to be admired whilst dining.

It’s a very fine print indeed in near perfect condition with strong colours, fine impression and exquisite and delightfully handled design in the antique style. The two oban sheets are joined and there is very slight trimming to the bottom edge, otherwise perfect.

25cm x 70cm.