Toyokuni I, Bando Mitsugoro III as Daihanji no Kiyosumi

Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) Bando Mitsugoro III as Daihanji no Kiyosumi in the play Imoseyama Onna Teikin, 1818. Oban.

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A superb print with outstanding colour by Toyokuni I, the founder of the Utagawa School and the father of nineteenth century ukiyo-e. Really, without the business sense and the drive of Toyokuni, it is hard to imagine how the art of woodblock printing could have flourished. Through skilful use of connections with publishers, Toyokuni I enlarged the role of woodblock prints, especially for the kabuki market. His pupils, Kuniyoshi and Kunisada were to dominate the entire discipline within a decade.

The play Imoseyama Onna Teikin is a complex series of intrigues around a palace coup. The stage action takes place on the banks of a river, hence the torrent that Toyokuni has pictured here. Emiji, a Lord and pretender to the throne, attempts to blackmail and extort support from other families, even slashing his daughter-in-law to death in his determination. Daihanji, pictured here, forces Emiji to kill himself but is himself obliged to support Emiji’s son Iruka in his own plot to overthrow the Emperor.

Toyokuni’s economical style is evident here, but it is the torrent of water that dominates the composition. The drawing is in imitation of the fluid brush strokes of  Japanese painting; psychologically the figure of Daihanji is hemmed in by the edge of the image and the rushing water, a great print.

Full size, colour, impression and condition are all fine.

Published by Yamaguchiya Tobei (Kinkodo).

27cm x 35 cm.