Kunichika, Old Customs of the East - Moon Viewing

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Old Customs of the East (Azuma Kofu): Moon Viewing (Tsukimi), 1895. Deluxe oban triptych.

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There’s more going on in this beautiful and uncharacteristic print by Kuniyoshi than meets the eye. It’s in the tradition of beautiful women prints - three figures, lushly dressed against a poetic background surrounded by the signifiers of luxury associated with women of a certain class. They are looking longingly at a heavy, full moon, low in the sky. Kunichika is picturing here the art of Tsukimi, moon gazing - a tradition that goes back to the Heian period (794 - 1185). The celebration of the full moon (similar to the harvest moon in Europe) takes place on the 15th day of the eighth month of the traditional Japanese calendar. Traditionally, celebrations include decorations of pampas grass and the eating of rice dumplings called Tsukumi dango.

In the Kunichika print we see the pampas grass indicated in the delicate shades of bokashi shading and a small elaborate pot on the bamboo table perhaps containing the rice dumplings. The moon hangs heavy and low in the sky. This is an unusual style for Kunichika; the colours are restrained and the tones and shading are unusually delicate. The style - especially of the background - predicts the direction that ukiyo-e would take in the years to come, especially in the evocative sino-Japanese war prints of Toshikata.

A fine, unusual and late Kunichika first edition triptych in very fine condition. Colour and impression are all fine. Beautiful and delicate embossing to the robes, very fine bokashi shading throughout.

Published by Katada Chojiro.

74cm x 37cm.