Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) Three Actors in a Parody of the Three Kingdoms, 1850’s. Deluxe oban.
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This is a very beautiful triptych by Kunisada from the 1850’s which is a parody of a scene from the Chinese novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms. These Chinese novels were very popular in Edo at the turn of the nineteenth century and they were adapted into Japanese settings and translated accordingly (which leads to a great deal of confusion); another such example is the 108 Heroes of the Popular Suikoden.
The fifteenth-century Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo yanyi) tells of the founding of the three kingdoms of Shu, Wei and Wu after the fall of the Han dynasty in 220 AD. In the book, three generals meet to sign a treaty in a peach orchard. Here, three kabuki actors are gathered beneath a blossoming peach tree for a meal. The elaborate lacquered table and sumptuous meal occur in several prints by various artists which parody this famous fictional meeting, often depicting famous sumo wrestlers of the day. The scene became a kind of symbolic setting for fraternity and this print presumably depicts the coming together of three actor clans in an act of solidarity.
The colouration is particularly outstanding as is the drawing of the table and the meal laid out on Chinese ceramics. The spiky plum branch unites the three sheets and each actor maintains his own space on a separate sheet whilst also maintaining their place in the composition. A very lovely print.
Colour and impression are fine, condition is excellent, except for some wormage to the top right hand corner.
73 x 36 cm.