Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) A Mirror of Good and Evil Spirits: Iwai Shijaku as Hitomaru Oroko, 1868. Oban.
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Anxieties among Edo townspeople about powerful women were widespread in the latter nineteenth century. Artists such as Kunichika and Yoshitoshi produced several series such 36 Good and Evil Beauties, or 32 Aspects of Customs and Manners which were all attempts to excite, represent or explain the changed role of women in the new Japan. Kunichika’s Mirror of Good and Evil Spirits is a part of that process and illustrates several such women in positions of strength. Here is Iwai Shijaku as Hitomaru Oroko... needless to say Shijaku is a male onnagata actor playing the part of a woman. Hitomaru was a bandit, of which there were several in reality and in folklore. Kunichika shows her in defiant pose, a strong woman clutching a richly lacquered spear (naginata). In the background is the shadow of a castle and her shaved eyebrows and blackened teeth indicate her married status.
This is a very highly considered series, this print is in fine condition with fine colour and impression. The shadowy background in rubbed through ink (bokashi) is particularly well handled.
34 x 24 cm.