Kunichika, Magic In the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac - Iga no Jutaro Killing a Hare

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Iga no Jutaro Killing a Hare, from the series Kijsutsu 12 Shi (Magic In the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac), Oban. 1877.

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This is the third of the Kunichika prints from the series Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac from 1877. It shows the actor Nakamura Shikan as the samurai Iga no Jutaro committing the terrible sin of sacrificing a hare in the precinct of a Buddhist Temple. An act forbidden by Buddhist law.

Jutaro was the retainer of the Shogun, Soma no Yoshikado. Yoshikado was in turn brother of Princess Takiyasha, a notorious witch in Japanese folklore whose familiar was a toad. There are many stories and prints depicting her use of dark magic to avenge the death of her warlord father and Kunichika depicts Jutaro in the act of one such ritual.

The print is a striking portrait of Jutaro as an old man. His hair and beard are deeply embossed and he is portrayed against a silhouette of a night sky peppered with mica and a shadowy landscape. He grasps a knife, his face distorted in the dramatic mie of the kabuki drama. The title cartouche in the upper right is decorated with an arrow and a small toad, signifying his relationship to the witch Takiyasha.

The print is in fine condition, bright colours, strong impression and deep embossing to the hair. There are album binding holes to the left hand side, otherwise very good.

Published by Arakawa Yasohachi.

14” x 9.5”