Kunisada, A Contest of Magic Scenes - Nakamura Shikan IV

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) A Contest of Magic Scenes by Toyokuni (Toyokuni kigo kijutsu kurabe) Nakamura Shikan IV, 1864. Oban.

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This print from the highly regarded series A Contest of Magic Scenes by Toyokuni is a tour-de-force of the printer's art, double printed for richness of colour and littered with deluxe techniques. The background has applied mica, the red of his inner robe is burnished with a chevron design of polished red shomen zuri, elsewhere on the dress there are raised and embossed patterns and black applied and polished laquer.

The print is frequently identified as Shikan IV playing the character Sutewakamura. The print in fact depicts the King of the Bandits and popular folklore hero of Japan, Ishikawa Goemon. Goemon was the subject of numerous plays and versions of plays and this scene, where he stands on the stage carrying a wicker basket on his back containing the remains of his dead father-in-law Jizaemon is very famous. He is shown reading an incantation that will cause him magically to disappear and reappear further down the stage before flying away, (hoisted on wires) scornfully mocking his pursuers.

This is a very fine and hugely collectable print in excellent condition. As described, the piece is rich with detail and superb deluxe printing technique. Full size, fine colour and impression.

Signed: nanajūhachi sai Toyokuni hitsu. Publisher: Hiranoya Shinzō. Carver: hori Ōta Tashichi.