Kunichika, Comparison of Flowers and the Twelve Months - October (Maple Leaves)

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Comparison of Flowers and the Twelve Months: October (Maple Leaves) - Ichikawa Danjuro as Ishikawa Goemon, 1880. Oban.

This is one from a little seen series of actor portraits paired with the twelve months. Each of the months is itself paired with flowers and there is an explicit comparison between the roles of the actors and the flowers. This type of cryptic allusion is called a mitate and became a dominant genre during the Tempo Reforms of the 1840’s, used by artists as a means to circumvent censorship… one thing standing in for another. The effect was to create a new genre of guessing picture which was popular with the public who were challenged to solve the often baffling symbolism of the prints.

In this print we see Ichikawa Danjuro as Ishikawa Goemon, the famous Robin Hood type character of Japanese kabuki, and like Robin Hood, loosely based on a real historic character. Goemon was a prolific thief who attempted an assassination on Mashiba Hideyoshi. In the kabuki play, Goemon has taken up residence in the vermillion temple of Nanzenji, but in reality Goemon was captured and sentenced to be boiled in oil with his young son, in an iron kettle still called goemonburo (Goemon Bath), the subject also of many grim ukiyo-e.

The place of Goemon’s capture, Nanzen-ji Temple, is famous for its maple leaves; the japanese tourist board remark,

When you climb up to Sanmon, one of the three great gates of Japan, the view of red-colored leaves can be enjoyed in 360 degrees. Kabuki fans may be familiar with Ishikawa Goemon's line inspired by this place: "A magnificent view! A magnificent view!"  Inside the premises, the combination of the brick aqueduct and autumn foliage is a popular place to snap photos because of its old-fashioned feel.

This print is a very good example of Meiji theatre series, colourful, intriguing, dramatic and beautifully designed. Colour impression and condition are all fine. Mica to the background.

35 x 25 cm.