Hiroshige, A Comparison of the Ogura 100 Poets 40 - Iga no Tsubone

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) A Comparison of the Ogura One Hundred Poets #40: Iga no Tsubone, 1845 -1847. Oban.

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This series of 100 prints is one of the outstanding achievements of woodblock printing in Japan in the nineteenth century. Commissioned by the publisher Ibaya Senzaburo in 1845, the series is the joint work of Kuniyoshi, Hiroshige and Kunisada - the three outstanding woodblock artists of the age. The prints in the series are beautifully composed, drawn and printed and they exhibit a remarkable conformity of style. The edition was one in a long line of anthologies which gathered together the canon of great poetry going back to the eighth century. Whilst there had been previous attempts by artists to anthologise and illustrate the great poems, notably by Hokusai and Kuniyoshi himself, this was the first major work to be completed.

This is an exorcism picture, showing Iga, a lady in waiting at the court of Emperor Go-daigo. She is taking the evening air when she is accosted by the ghost of a disgraced general who has taken the form of a bird in a tree. Fearlessly, she listens to the bird and arranges to have prayers said in honour of the spirit. As a result the spectre no longer appears. The poem in the cartouche reads:

Even though I hide it / it shows all over my face / such is my longing / so that people ask me / ‘What are you thinking about?’

The connection with the poem is vague but alludes to Iga’s question of the tragic ghost. The poems themselves were gathered together by the scholar Fujiwara no Teika in 1235. It is presumed that these poems were taken from a commission that resulted in the pieces being written out by hand by Teika and glued to the doors of his villa in the shadow of Mount Ogura - hence the name of the series. Some of these fragments still exist in museums in Japan. One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each, became the standard textbook for Japanese poetry for centuries to come. The poems themselves are in the Tanka style, that is, five lines of five, seven, five, seven and seven syllables - different to the more familiar Haiku of today. The prints are mitate - pictures that allude via analogy to the subject of the print. In this way, the publisher challenged the reader to find the meaning of the pictures within the visual clues of the print.

A very fine print in excellent condition.  Full size with margins, colour and impression are also fine. There is a faint centre fold. Small worm damage restored.

Published by Ibaya Senzaburo.

24.5 x 36 cm.