Kunisada, Actors in a Kabuki Drama

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Actors in a Kabuki drama, 1820’s. Oban Triptych.

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Sometimes we come across really outstanding prints which slip through the net of known or famous prints. This is such a print: there are no records of the print in any of the databases and there’s no accurate way even to date it. Nevertheless, as a piece of art, as a design it is simply outstanding. The drawing here is in the style of Kunisada's teacher Toyokuni I, the realism is a direct heir to Sharaku. This is pure nineteenth century stuff - pure dekiyo-e - it's all harsh realism, actor as person and bold decoration... archaic in its manner and colour, but looking forward to a century of change.

Three kabuki actors occupy the space of the stage. In the centre, an onnagata is wearing a peony and dragon embellished kimono; the colours are delicate and exquisitely printed. The villain is in the left-hand panel, in burnished black arms folded. On the right hand sheet another actor, wearing a kimono of mandarin ducks - a sign of devotion and constancy - looks on. The three characters are set against a running backdrop of red architecture, bold and simply drawn… and that’s it. But for anyone with an eye for ukiyo-e designs, this is a truly great and early work by Kunisada, probably from the 1820’s or possibly earlier - it is published by Tsuruya Kinsuke who published Toyokuni I and very early Kunisada prints.

The print has exquisite colour, the design and and impression are fine. The prints are full size and in very fine condition

Published by Tsuruya Kinsuke.

74 x 37 cm.