Kunichika, Newly Woven Brocades - Musashi Beauties, Beauty at Window

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900)  Newly Woven Brocades: Musashi Beauties; Beauty at Window, 1883. Oban.

A very nice print indeed. Amy Reigle Newland, in her monograph Time Past and Time Present, Images of a Forgotten Master,  Hotei Publishing 1999 illustrates several prints from this series. Aside from being an accomplished, indeed the leading, actor portraitist, Kunichika was a leading illustrator of women, and an innovator in that field. Classical, passive images of women from the eighteenth century had in fact given way to much more positive, urban images of women in real situations. Kunichika expanded on this by showing women in strong historical roles - as in Thirty-six Good and Evil Women from 1876 - and by showing contemporary townswomen in day to day activities, as in this series and others. In this way, Kunichika was hugely influential on Yoshitoshi who followed these groundbreaking prints with his own series such as Thirty-Two Aspects of Customs and Manners in 1888.

In this series, the 'brocades' of the title refer to the richness of the successful multi-coloured printing that the publishers were now able to produce. These deluxe, sophisticated prints were widely known as 'brocade prints' (nishiki-e). The 'Musashi' of the same title, refers to the Musashi Plain that Edo is built on, (modern Tokyo). 'Musashi' was a term widely used in eighteenth century poetry and became synonymous with the romantic and self-regarding aspects of Edo life.

In this print, a modern Edo girl is lifting the elaborate lid of a make up jar; behind her lies a rural scene - the plain of the title.

A nice print, from an important series, backed. Colour and impression are excellent, condition is good.

Published by Komiyama Shohei.

23cm x 35cm.