Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Famous Places of Edo: Ichimura Kakitsu as Oniazami Seikichi, 1867. Oban.
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This very fine series from early in Kunichika’s career pairs actors in roles with famous views and places of Edo (Tokyo). The series illustrates the actor in the foreground, typically wearing or carrying the signifiers of his part, against a dark background with an elaborate cartouche in the shape of a flower. The cartouche contains the view which is barely related to the drama. The printing quality is excellent and still bears the quality of the best of Edo printing from the mid century.
The series was collaborative, with designs submitted by Kuniteru II and Yoshiiku as well as Kunichika. These are some of Kunichika’s strongest designs of the 1870’s and 1860’s with strong colours and finely balanced designs. The character of Seikichi is one of the all-time bad guys of kabuki. The play, Kosode Soga Azami no Ironui, is about a doomed love affair between a priest (Seishin, who later changes his name to Seikichi) and a young girl. They are banished and Seikichi becomes a bandit whilst his lover leaves to become a nun. Later she is captured by bandits and rescued by Seikichi who has himself descended into a life of crime and banditry. Reunited, they go on a crime spree which ends in remorse and a double duicide. Seikichi is often pictured as here, with his face covered by a spotted cloth.
The print is a very powerful design, the colour, condition and impression are all fine barring some very small stains, a fine piece.
Published by Masudaya Ginjiro.
25cm x 35cm.