Yoshitaki, Ichikawa Udanji as Monky and Traveller

Utagawa Yoshitaki (ca 1841 - 1899) Ichikawa Udanji as Monkey and Traveller, ca. 1871. Deluxe Chuban.

This first Osaka piece in the exhibition already departs from the eclectic tastes and forms of the Edo scene. Here we are straight into the frenetic, hermitic world of Osaka kabuki, and for the researcher, all of the vagaries that entails.

This is a fine Osaka piece - chuban format, as is habitual with the school and a quality of paper, ink, production and technique rarely seen in Edo even at this time. This print and its companion piece on the same page seem to my mind to sum up all the great mystery of the Osaka kabuki scene - the prosaic description of stage craft and the otherworldly representation of myth, melodrama and display. The two prints most probably represent a sequence of quick change, short pieces - possibly dance dramas that were popular in Osaka. Beautifully crafted for a coterie audience of fans, collectors and aficionados the Osaka stage is poorly recorded and many performances like this are lost to the records.

Yoshitaki was one  of the most prolific of the Osaka School artists and the last great printmaker of the genre. This deluxe piece shows Ichikawa Udanji as a blind traveller and maybe the same actor in the role of a monkey. The monkey is carrying a way sign and there is presumably a narrative and pun involved in this correlation. As is often the case in Osaka, the intense focus on the stage itself rather than the myth allows the artist to show us the stagecraft involved - here illustrating the monkey costume, with stage socks and mask clearly visible.

This is a very fine quality deluxe print, probably of limited circulation. It is an extremely fine impression with gold and silver pigments, bokashi shading and gauffrage and other printing refinements, strong unfaded colour. A rare piece in outstanding condition.

25cm x 18cm.