Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Actors at the 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road (Tokaido gojusan-tsugi no uchi) Station 39: Okazaki, 1852. Oban.
This series is one of Kunisada’s most underrated and oddly also one of his most influential. The pairing of obscure and nameless kabuki dramas with stations of the Tokaido was to set a new trend and revive the ukiyo-e industry in the face of government censorship. Graphically, the dense three-quarter portrait, set against the lush background and richly textured, coloured surface was also to have a profound influence on the direction of later woodblock prints. This print is described everywhere as Onoe Baiko IV as Otari, mother of Masaemon from an unknown play. It should be Otani wife of Masaemon from the play Okazaki, a well known play based loosely on the Igagoe vendetta of 1634. In the drama, Shizuma and Masaemon are pursuing the killer of Shizuma’s father. Masaemon’s wife Otani follows the men in order to introduce her son (visible in the folds of her coat) to his father. In the course of the (naturally) over complicated plot, Masaemon stabs his own son to preserve his false identity. This theme of sacrificing even your child to honour your family is popular in kabuki from this period.
This is a very fine print. The scene is recognisable from Hiroshige’s views of the distinctive mountains. Kunisada achieves an fabulous density of colour, pattern and design in the dense, richly coloured surface. Otani’s fate is visible in the look of longing and apprehension in Baiko’s face and in the pathetic and helpless child enfolded in her robes. The cartouche is decorated with stage paraphernalia from the drama. The print is in fine condition, impression and colour are also very fine.
Signed Toyokuni ga, published by Iseya Kanekichi.
37cm x 24cm.