Kuniyoshi, Comparisons for the Chapters of the Genji - Festival of Cherry Blossoms

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Japanese and Chinese Comparisons for the Chapters of Genji, Chapter 8: Festival of Cherry Blossoms, 1855. Oban.

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A very fine print from the series Japanese and Chinese Comparisons for the Chapters of Genji. This piece illustrates the story of Yoshitsune (in youth known as Ushiwaka maru). Here we see the young Yoshitsune leaping among the pine trees of the forest of Kuramayama, confounding his fencing teacher and his subjects, the tengu. Tengu are mythological forest dwelling creatures that are human like, with wings and long beak like noses. They are renowned for their martial arts and fencing skills. It was the tengu that taught Yoshitsune the fighting skills  which enabled him to defeat Benkei at Gojo Bridge.

The Tales of Genji (Genji monogatari) is considered the greatest novel in classical Japanese literature, and arguably, the world’s first novel.  It was written in the first decade of the eleventh century by Lady Murasaki, and relates the womanizing exploits of Prince Genji.  Each of the fifty-four chapters of the novel is named and is associated with a crest called a Genji-mon.  In this series of prints, the crests, the chapters of the books and the heroic exploits are sometimes wrong, misplaced or obscure, making contemporary interpretation of the prints difficult. The individual titles are written in the Genji-mon cartouche.

What is interesting here is comparison to the outstanding Yoshitoshi triptych of the same subject from thirty years later. Yoshitoshi has used this model and the triptych version (which Kuniyoshi borrowed from Kunisada), for his interpretation of the legend. The obvious stylistic similarities are a clear indication of the debt that even the greatest Japanese printmakers owed to their teachers.

A very fine print, full size and with margins. Very fine impression and colour. Condition very good excepting some minor wormage repaired at the top and right margin.

Published by Ise Yoshi.

35cm x 25cm.