Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) The Snow Bound Barrier of Love, 1897. Oban triptych.
A fine example of the late style of Kunichika. As Ichikawa Danjuro was reinventing the kabuki stage for the modern age, so too was Kunichika pushing the compositional limits of woodblock printing. In this great print, Danjuro the IX portrays the barrier guard Sekibei, who attempts to cut down a cherry tree whilst drunk. As he is ready to strike, the spirit of the cherry tree appears to him in the form of the prostitute Sumizome, here played by Onoe Kikugoro V. She seduces Sekibei and in this scene he reveals his true identity as the outlaw Omoto Kuronishi who plans to instill revolution and usurp the government.
A fine triptych, three oban panels attached at the seams and backed onto Japanese paper. An early edition of this print with fine woodgrain visible in the smoky background. In almost mint condition, the colours remain fresh and subtle. No major condition issues.
This print is illustrated on page 146 of Amy Reigle Newland Time Past and Time Present, Images of a Forgotten Master, Hotei Publishing 1999.