Kunisada, Nanakusa

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Nanakusa, c1844. Oban.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

This print is from a rare series of female subjects representing the seven herbs of spring. The other prints in the series show the collection, preparation and cooking of the herbs, each attended upon by a beautiful woman. The seven herbs of spring include chickweed, cudweed, nipplewort, and turnip which is represented here, on the open container decorated with multiple toshidama (new year good luck motifs).  The real point of the print however, is a celebration of the New Year and the coming spring. Hence the reference to nanakusa, the "seven herbs" of spring in the print’s title. It is still traditional to eat these herbs chopped up in rice porridge on the seventh day of the New Year.

A standing woman in delicate floral kimono is holding a ball. She is next to a box lavishly decorated with toshidama motifs on which rests a lobster, a turnip and other, indistinct objects. Delicate shading (bokashi) drifts across the background which is also beautifully embossed with fronds and plant shapes, redolent again of the spring herbs. This delicate and lovely print is gorgeously and subtly tinted, an outstanding mid-period Kunisada bijin .

The print is signed Kunisada aratame nidaime Toyokuni ga (changing his name to the second of the name). This refers to an ongoing feud with the artist Toyoshige, who was given the name Toyokuni the second on their teacher's death. Kunisada was upset at being overlooked since he was by far the senior artist. In this series of prints Kunisada is announcing to the world that he should be known as Toyokuni the second from here on (although to avoid confusion, he is always referred to as Toyokuni III).

The print is in good condition, fine colour and strong impression.

Published by Nuno Kichi with nanushi censor seal of Murata Heiemon.