Utagawa Yoshiiku (1833-1904) Modern Parodies of the Genji: Princess Wakana, 1864. Oban.
A striking print from the very underrated Yoshiiku, a pupil of Kuniyoshi. The series from which this print is taken is very admired and collectible. In the mitate tradition of puzzle pictures - although, by 1864 there was no need to disguise subject matter - the series takes chapters of the popular archaic novel, The Tale of the Genji and matches folklore scenes to each section. The exact relationship between Genji chapters and subject matter is obscure. Sometimes it can be a pun between two words, a similar object or subject. In the case of Kunichika’s series on the same theme, there is almost no apparent relationship between subject and novel.
The ubiquitous spider that hovers so menacingly in the background, is the template for many spiders both before and following this print. The play from which this story is derived tells the story of the young Princess Wakana whose family are wiped out in a feud with another clan. She is rescued by a kindly spider and given the gift of spider magic. The plot tells of her vendetta to take revenge upon the Kikuchi family who were the cause of her downfall. Kunisada pictures the scene where, disguised as a man, Wakana uses the magic of the spider scroll to conjure a gigantic beast to assist her in her fight with Akisaku, a retainer of the Kikuchi.
Princess Wakana stands in the foreground; she holds a sword and behind her is the paraphernalia of magic in a basket. The summoned spider seems to float out of the mist, conjured by the vengeful princess. The large cartouche at the top mimics an open book and refers to the relevant chapter of the novel.
A rare print, fine condition, colour and impression. Slight trim to lower border.
Published by Omiya Kyusuke.
24cm x 34cm.