Kuniyoshi, Comparisons for the Chapters of the Genji 25 - Hotaru

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Comparisons for the Chapters of the Genji #25: Hotaru. 1855. Oban.

This great samurai print is by Kuniyoshi, this one from a series of 1855 and also something of an enigma. Tales of the Genji can be said with some justification to be the first true novel. Written in the eleventh century by the noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu, it details the life and love affairs of Prince Genji. It is a long, psychological piece that has had profound influence on literature both within and outside Japan. This print illustrates chapter 25, in which Genji wants to be the go-between for his younger brother who is in love with Lady Tamakazura. To facilitate the affair Genji releases a large number of fireflies to attract Tamakazura’s attention.

For this series, Kuniyoshi took scenes from history and legend and paired them with relevant chapters of the novel... hence this piece is called fireflies. The striking image shows the famous samurai Shinizuka Iga no Kami raising the sail of a boat singlehandedly whilst the remaining crew look on in astonishment. Shinizuka was retainer to the Nitta clan in the fourteenth century and renowned for his strength. Unfortunately no one seems to be able to account for the image or place it in the context of the story. The geometric panel at the top right is the heraldic mon of Prince Genji.

The print is in very good condition, colour is fine as is the impression. There is some trimming to the bottom edge and some slight toning to the paper, overall good condition. This is a striking image from an uncommon series.

Published by Ise-Yoshi.