Toyohara Chikanobu (1838 - 1912) Edo Embroidery Pictures Day and Night: Kintaro, 1886. Oban.
Chikanobu is a fine and under-rated artist who studied under Toyohara Kunichika. Although he produced some very ordinary theatre prints, his real work is of an exceptional standard and he is now being recognised as a substantial Meiji artist. His reputation has been assisted by the publication of Chikanobu: Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints by Bruce A. Coats in 2006.
This print from 1886 is very lovely indeed and takes as its subject the boyhood of Kintaro. In legend, Kintaro was raised in the wild, some say by his mother, others by an old hag. He was exceptionally strong and willful and became friends with the creatures of the mountains. He is a popular legend in Japanese folklore even today and is traditionally shown with monkeys, with whom he was able to communicate; and with a chopper, with which he performed great feats of strength. As an adult he became a famous and fierce samurai and retainer of Minamoto no Yorimitsu and the boyhood legend has over time become conflated with the real warrior and historical figure Sakata no Kintoki.
Here the boy Kintaro is shown with his mother and his childhood monkey companions. In the upper portion, the seated figure is his future master Minamoto no Yorimitsu. Behind him, silhouetted against a screen, is the menacing shadow of the earth spider and its web and the evil succubus at his knee, a legend explained in our entry on Kunichika’s print of the same subject. In this print we admire the great delicacy that Chikanobu has brought to the drawing of the monkeys and the landscape. A handsome portrait of Fuji completes the backdrop. There is a compelling gentleness in the gesture that Kintaro makes to the foreground animal.
Untrimmed, fine colours and impression and in excellent condition. A fine print.
Signed Yoshi Chikanobu Hitsu. Published by Tsunashima Kamekichi.