Utagawa Yoshiiku (1833-1904) Modern Parodies of Genji Ch. 48, Sawarabi: Kaidomaru, 1864. Oban.
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This is a charming and mysterious print at first glance, and one that hides its mysteries within layers and layers of meaning lost to most people at this distance in time and culture. The artist is 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.
Yoshiiku illustrates the young Kaidomaru, known also as Kintaro and as Kintoki, the golden skinned boy here, as usual, playing in his forest home. It is a persistent fantasy that permeates every culture: the wild, foundling child… bought up by beasts and of enormous strength. As with Romulus and Remus, or Tarzan, the boy has a supernatural quality and a close connection with wild animals, in this case monkeys and rabbits. In this print Kintaro with his animal companions is refereeing a sumo wrestling bout between a monkey and a rabbit (note the sumo fan that he holds in his right hand). Behind him as spectators are other mountain creatures - a wild boar holds the boy hero’s gigantic axe. A child of superhuman strength, he was raised by a mountain hag on Mount Ashigara. He became friendly with the animals of the mountain, and later, after catching Shutendouji, the terror of the region around Mount Ooe, he became a loyal follower of Minamoto no Yorimitsu under the new name Sakata no Kintoki. He is a popular figure in kabuki drama, and it is a custom to put up a Kintaro doll on Boy's Day in the hope that boys will become equally brave and strong.
A terrific and lively print from a very good series, the colour and impression are all fine. The condition is excellent, barring some worm damage to the top edge and foreground which do not detract too much.
Published by Omiya Kyujiro (Kiyudo).
38cm x 25cm.