Kuniyoshi, The Five Festivals - The Chrysanthemum Festival

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Choyo no Sekku (September 9th) The Chrysanthemum Festival from the series The Five Festivals (Go sekku no uchi) 1849. Oban.

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This rare and very fine series depicts the five great festivals of Japan likened to scenes from the kabuki play Onna gori goshiki no hana kago. The series is a mitate - in other words the festival is a stand-in subject for the real intention of depicting popular kabuki actors at a time when the decadence of the theatre was being proscribed by the authorities. The effect was to force ukiyo artists to use analogy or metaphor to disguise the real subject of the print.

In reality as this series shows, there was little attempt at subterfuge and these mitate scenes became merely another genre for the artist to exploit - a game played with the knowing audience. The five festivals are: Jinjitsu (the seven herbs), Joushi (girls festival), Tango (boy’s day), Tanabata (star festival) and the festival depicted in this print, Choyo - the last of the Five Major Festivals. The Chinese believed that 9 is the positive's highest number and since this day counts as double 9, it is said to be good omen. On this day, the Japanese eat chestnut rice and display chrysanthemums; therefore it is known both as the festival of chestnuts and the festival of chrysanthemums.

Kuniyoshi depicts Fujikawa Kaju III as the geisha Osen and Nakamura Utaemon IV as Kyokuba Nori riding a horse. The cartouche is illustrated with chrysanthemums. This is an excellent Kuniyoshi, beautifully printed, in fine condition. The colour and impression are also both very fine, a rare piece.

Published by Minato-ya Kohei.