Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Conjuring a Tiger, from the series Kijsutsu 12 Shi (Magic In the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac), Oban. 1877.
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This is a terrific and bold deluxe edition design from an 1877 series of magical events in the Japanese zodiac by Kunichika. Animal subjects are rare in Japanese prints, especially when they loom so large as in the this print. There are some precedents for the design - it is unlikely that Kunichika would have had much experience of tigers first hand - and here he has used an earlier diptych of a tiger by the artist Kikukawa Eizen as his model.
The subject is that of Torao Maru - so called King of the Tigers and sometimes known as Hyonosuke or Leopard-child. Maru holds the magical scroll that he is often pictured with and enchants a tiger from its design. The shape of the animal can be seen in matrix, whilst its actual incarnation looms out of the picture at us over Maru’s shoulder. This simple visual narrative is wittily and subtly conveyed via the dynamics of Maru’s gaze. The cartouche shows the boxed scroll and bamboo props from the kabuki story.
This is a very good Kunichika in fine condition. There is some really superb interlace burnishing (shomen-zuri) in the red of Maru’s clothes which shimmers when it catches the light. The colour and the impression are very fine as is the condition. Some album binding holes on the right hand edge.
Published by Arakawa Yasohachi.
14” x 9.5”