Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Selection for the Twelve Signs - Ox, 1845. Oban.
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A beautiful, highly decorative print with delicate shading (bokashi) in the background. This series illustrates the twelve animals of the buddhist zodiac by likening historical and mythical figures to each animal. The depiction is a scene from the kabuki play Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami in which three brothers become victims of divided loyalties.
This scene from the third act of Sugawara features the triplets, Umeomaru, Sakuramaru, and Matsuomaru, each a loyal retainer to one of the play's chief characters (Kan Shojo, Prince Tokiyo, and Shihei, respectively). The triplets each wear a symbol on their sleeve to identify them: Ume, Sakura, and Matsu are the Japanese words for plum blossom, cherry blossom, and pine respectively. They are also distinguished by their makeup and acting style. Sakuramaru is a romantic and gentle type, in the wagoto fashion, Umeomaru is a hero in aragoto style, with bright red face makeup, and Matsuomaru is a villain, his face painted with blue lines. The scene opens as Umeomaru and Sakuramaru try to stop Shihei's carriage, and are confronted by Matsuomaru, a member of the entourage. As the pair begin to unlash the oxen and tear apart the carriage, Shihei emerges, his blue face makeup marking him as a villain. He glares at them malevolently, halting their attack. Kuniyoshi draws Sakuramaru, holding the rope prior to the action developing. An ox horn is depicted in the left hand corner of the cartouche.
Full size and in very good condition with no major flaws except small album binding holes on the left edge. The impression is strong with fine crisp detail and a very high quality to the printing, the colours are unfaded.
Published by Iba-ya Sensaburo.
37 x 26 cm.