Kunisada, Ichimura Uzaemon XIII as the Fish Seller in the Dance Katsuo Uri

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Ichimura Uzaemon XIII as the Fish Seller in the Dance Katsuo Uri, 1860. Oban.

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A fantastically coloured and clever print by Kunisada from one of the great series made towards the end of his life. He produced some of his best work as an elderly man, able to make full use of the booming deluxe print trade, the outstanding technical achievements of printers and block cutters and, as in the case of this print, some of the most refined timbers, papers and inks that were available.

This series is sometimes called the 'Bird Series'. Horst Graebner describes it as: a fine Kunisada half-length actor portrait series designed in 1860. Each of the fifteen prints are deluxe quality sheets, each featuring a different bird of some sort; in this case a descending cuckoo.  This print shows a scene from a dance piece called Katsuo Uri. The Katsuo is a type of fish similar to the Bonito - a small tuna. In the print, Ichimura Uzaemon XIII is shown half length, carrying the pole of his baskets of fish across his shoulder. Edo is shown in beautiful, elegant silhouette across a dawn sky. Behind the conventional clouds that break up the mid-ground of nineteenth century Japanese prints, we glimpse the early market traders crossing the Nihonbashi bridge. The red cartouche has dark toshidama seals printed over it. In the sky, mimicking almost exactly, Komokata Hall and Azuma Bridge from Hiroshige's One Hundred Views of Edo, a cuckoo takes the centre of the print.

This print has so much of the nineteenth century 'Dekiyo-e' discussed in the catalogue essay. It focuses on the merchant, the townsman - the ordinary hard working man - rather than the prince or the samurai. The print is rich and dark in its colouration, displaying in visual form the excitement of foreign products and new materials and ideas. The drawing is realistic, harsh and direct… the actions here - the look and the expression - are direct and uncomplicated by nuance or doubt. This is a 'modern' picture, it looks forward to dynamic change.

The print is trimmed to the image, otherwise the colour, impression and condition are all fine. It is signed ni konomi Toyokuni ga (according to my taste). A statement proclaiming that the old man had produced what he, rather than the publisher, appreciated.

Published by Otaya Takichi.

37 x 24 cm.