Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac: Dragon - The actor Bando Hikosaburo V as Unryu Kuro, 1877. Oban.
The next six prints are from another of the great series by Kunichika. The series is not so well known and the prints from it are rare to find in good condition. All the prints in the series pair one of the buddhist signs of the zodiac with an appropriate or related actor in a scene from history or kabuki. Not all of the references are to actual plays and it is possible that some of the scenes are imagined. For more information on the zodiac and their treatment in ukiyo-e see our blog post on the subject.
The series borrows very heavily from Kunisada’s 1862 series A Contest of Magic Scenes. In this print, Kunichika pictures the actor Bando Hikosaburo V as Unryu Kuro closely following the Kunisada print of the same subject. Unryu Kuro is the main charcter in the novel Unryu Kuro Chutoden by the well known Edo comic novelist Shikitei Sanba. There is no evidence that the book was produced as a kabuki play and casting Hikosaburo is therefore fanciful.
Like all the prints in the series this piece bristles with energy and bold design. Kunichika brings the dragon up to the picture plane and pictures the character Unryu Kuro in the act of conjuring it from an outstretched scroll. It is a superb piece, the colour is rich and heavy, and the design is bold and schematic. Mounted on Japanese album paper, the condition and colour are fine as is the impression which has shomen-zuri patterns (burnishing) applied to the robes.
Published by Ueki Rinnosuke.
We have other prints from this series not in this show - please enquire if you would like more information.
36cm x 24cm.