Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) A Comparison of the Ogura One Hundred Poets: Taira Chancellor Kiyomori, 1847. Oban.
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A very fine print from one the best collections of ukiyo-e of the nineteenth century. In 1845 the publisher Ibaya Senzaburo commissioned the three leading artists of the day, Hiroshige, Kunisada and Kuniyoshi, to contribute to an anthology of one hundred poems by one hundred poets. The poem is written at the top of the print and a scene from history or drama is illustrated below, each scene being an obscure allusion to the subject of the poem.
Illustrated, is Kiyomori, the despotic ruler of Japan (1118 - 1181) glancing at a paper screen on which the courtesan Gio has written a poem expressing her fear that his eventual tiring of her (and that of her rival Hotoke Gozen) will be as certain as the coming of Autumn.
Since both are grasses / of the field, how may either be spared by autumn - the young shoot blossoming forth / and the herb fading from view?
Unusually for this series, which was partly commissioned as a result of a temporary prohibition on the depiction of actors, Kuniyoshi has drawn Kiyomori with the face of the kabuki actor Nakamura Utaemon IV. Utaemon had recently performed the role of Kiyomori in the play Tama tsubaki Genpei at the Nakamura Theatre and this print must in some way have commemorated the performance. As with all the prints in this fine series, there is a delicacy and sophistication in the drawing and execution. Remarkably, there is an extraordinary consistency in the style of drawing and design between the work of the three artists which can makes attribution confusing at first sight. There is considerable skill and beauty in the density of the over layered fabrics that form the heart of the design and a lovely gentleness to the gesture of Gio as she illuminates the poem with her lantern.
A fine early copy, very fine colour, impression and condition. Full size with margins and unbacked.
Signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi. Published by Iba-ya Sensaburo
24cm x 37cm.