Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Barometer of Emotions #2: Light Snow - Ichikawa Sadanji as Obo Kichiza, 1876. Oban.
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Yoshitoshi actor prints are rare; work for the theatre sustained him in his early career and he only intermittently revisited it as a subject during later life. This series, Barometer of Emotions, from 1876 is highly regarded and has a very nice subtext which alludes once more to the artist’s continued struggle to balance his enthusiasm for the new with his loyalty to the past.
The barometer was a novel instrument to Japan at the latter end of the century - part of the miraculous influx of new technology that characterised the Meiji revolution. The series title puns the function of the aneroid barometer that predicts weather conditions with emotional states derived from famous theatre productions. Hence the individual titles of the fourteen sheets allude to specific weather conditions: Light Snow, Mist, Strange Wind etc. In this piece, Yoshitoshi pairs snow with a performance of the kabuki play Sannin Kichisa. In the play, Obo Kichiza (here played by Ichikawa Sadanji) is a thief who with two other, unrelated characters (also called Kichiza) steal money and a sacred sword, finally dying in a suicidal pact with each other. The play is so astoundingly comical and complicated it would take pages to plot here - the site kabuki21 does a very good job of it if you are interested.
Yoshitoshi pictures the final scene that takes place in the snow. Despite his debt to Kuniyoshi, Yoshitoshi clearly uses precedents from Kunisada and his own contemporary Kunichika in the subject matter, the design and characterisation of the portrait.
A fine print, full size with fine colour, impression and condition.
Signed oju Yoshitoshi hitsu, published by Okura Magobei.
24cm x 35cm.