Kunichika, Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac - Snake

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Magic in the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac: Snake - Nakamura Shikan as Daijyamaru, 1877. Oban.

This fine 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 its treatment in ukiyo-e see our blog post on the subject.

This print shows the sorcerer Daijyamaru, a mortal enemy of Jiraiya and his sister. The characters from the stories in Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari were popular with Edo printmakers and inspired artists to make print series based on presumed contests of magic, a kind of animism and shape shifting that pitted snake against slug or toad. This fascination with sorcery and magical contests still has a resonance with us today as the Harry Potter series of films demonstrates.

In this print Kunichika uses most of the elements from a print of the same subject from Kunisada’s Contest of Magical Scenes of 1862.  Kunichika moves the portrait frame to his preferred three-quarter length format and allows the nest of snakes to interrupt the bottom left of the print. The curious object top left is a Kusudama - a traditional floral bouquet that Daijyamaru has conjured into a medusa like apparition.

Excellent colour, condition and impression, embossing to the collars of the robes.

Published by Ueki Rinnosuke

36cm x 25cm.

We have other prints from this series not in this show - please enquire if you would like more information.