Toyokuni I, Bando Mitsugoro as a Samurai Subduing a Tiger

Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) Bando Mitsugoro as a Samurai Subduing a Tiger, 1810’s. Oban.

A sensational and very unusual Toyokuni print from the beginning of the nineteenth century. Toyokuni was probably the most influential individual on the whole of the ukiyo-e scene for an entire century. From his school flows the style, the genres and the artists that dominated woodblock prints until they ceased to be a popular art form. In this very rare print we see the origins of the musha-e - the warrior prints that were to make Kuniyoshi’s career. I don’t think it fanciful to suggest that the great volume and taut graphic style of Kuniyoshi’s series The 108 Heroes of the Suikoden can be traced back to prints such as this one.

The print is nominally a kabuki scene, showing the actor Bando Mitsugoro in a military role overcoming an enormous tiger. The early colours here are subtle and delicate and unfaded, the drawing is quick and expressive and the whole piece is imbued with the sense of the departed eighteenth century and the style of its predecessors. And yet there is something very modern about the intense clash of pattern and texture that predicts the violent explosions of colour and action to come.

This is a fine early nineteenth century print from an important artist, the subject matter and expressive drawing is rare for Toyokuni. Colour and impression are very good, the print is attached to Japanese album backing which has helped to preserve it. There is some wear and surface damage as is to be expected but overall the condition is very good.

Published by Tsuruya Kinsuke.

Oban tate-e 37cm x 25cm.