Kunisada, Imoro Hikochichi

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Imoro Hikochichi c 1850. Oban triptych.

Although difficult to say for sure, it seems likely that this triptych represents a scene from a kabuki play telling the story of Imoro Hikochichi. Normally performed as a dance, the two onlookers to the ghostly scene, one a musical attendant, are most likely part of the dance performance or accompaniment. The story tells of a samurai who takes pity on a female traveller and offers to carry her across a steam; halfway across, Hikochichi sees her reflection and realises she has raised her hand concealing a dagger and intends to kill him… .

This is a brilliantly coloured print and when compared to the previous pieces shows the marked change of pigments used in ukiyo-e in the mid-century. The vestigial vegetable dyes of the early century have given way here to modern and imported pigments enabling the artist to use much stronger colours and a wider pallette. The economic position of the woodblock industry had also changed and we see in this piece a greater level of technical sophistication than before - more colours, hence more blocks and more detailed carving and decoration. Yet there remains in this piece a lot of the directness and plain composition of Toyokuni especially in the figure on the right hand sheet.

A very good example of a Toyokuni III kabuki scene with Fuji in the background. Colour and impression all fine. Three sheets are unbacked and full size but joined. Fine condition. Some minor binding holes repaired.

37cm x 76cm.