Kunichika, A Scene from the Exploits of Minamoto Yoshitsune

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Scene from Kabuki Play From the Exploits of Minamoto Yoshitsune, 1880’s. Oban Triptych.

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Kunichika made a series of prints in the early 1880’s which make dramatic use of one of the most delicate of print techniques in the background, this almost nanga style of painting (an Edo style that derives from traditional Chinese brush painting). The engraver has beautifully translated the quick brushstroke that describes the trees and the printer has unevenly inked the blocks to imitate the ebb and flow of the ink and the different pressure of the brush strokes.

This print, using the same decorative border, shows the twelfth century hero Yoshitsune no Minamoto on the right and other figures fighting against a background of delicately printed trees. Notable in this scene of skirmish are the fans that each actor holds. These tessen, as they were called, were of a fixed iron construction and used extensively as weapons in martial arts. Of course, the kabuki actors also made use of them in the stylised dance dramas that illustrated these scenes of conflict, acted out on the stage.

The print is a riot of carefully controlled patterns - clashing, meeting and overlapping, the whole scene anchored by the naginata of the central figure which locks the picture to the top and bottom margin.

The print is in very good condition - colours and impression are all fine.

74 x 37cm.