Kunikazu, Actors with Dice Hats

Utagawa Kunikazu (active 1849 - 1867) Actors Performing with Dice Hats, 1856 - 58. Deluxe Chuban triptych.

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One of the most mysterious and inexplicable prints I have seen. Three kabuki actors perform in front of Mount Fuji, each wearing a hat composed of a standard die. Dice were known in ancient times in China and were known in Japan at this time and were not a western import. It is possible that the print illustrates a dance interlude from the play The Loving Wife's Particolored Reins wherein a character throws dice to illustrate stopping places on the Tokaido Road.

This is a deep and mysterious piece, pretty much unknown as far as I can tell. The design with the dice dominates the composition as does the fine depiction of Mount Fuji in the background. The print is in excellent condition, colour and impression are all fine.