Mattia Jona, Master Drawings and Prints, Japanese Prints - Piazzetta Guastalla 5, 20122 Milan, Italy, tel (+39) 02 8053315

Kuniyoshi, kabuki scene


Triptych of vertical oban, colour woodblock prints. Signed Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga in gourd-shaped Toshidama seal. Two red Yoshikiri seals. Published by Kakumoto-ya Kinjiro. Censors: Fuku and Muramatsu (1849-1853). Very good impressions and colour, in very good condition; overall dimensions 375 x 755 mm.
The triptych is related to the play Higashiyama sakura zōshi 東山桜荘子, performed at the Nakamura Theater in the 8th month of 1851. The characters are, from right to left, Sugibae, Sakingo, Fuji no Kata, Yamana Sozen.
Apparently a quite rare triptych. I was not able to find any impression of any of the three sheets in books or on the web. I only found two triptychs by Kunisada depicting scenes of the same play, at the Minneapolis Institute of Art: inv.,B and

The son of a silk-dyer, at the age of fourteen Kuniyoshi joined the Utagawa school, then headed by Toyokuni I. Kuniyoshi achieved his commercial and artistic breakthrough in 1827 with the first designs of the series the 108 heroes of the Suikoden. This series, based on an old Chinese novel from the 14th century, was about rebels and bandits. The artist designed many other successful prints of warriors and heroes and was even nicknamed Warrior print Kuniyoshi, but in fact he contributed to every branch of Ukiyo-e: theatrical prints, legendary and historical subjects, women, landscapes, comics, surimono, fan-prints and book-illustrations.
By far the largest body of surviving preparatory drawings for Japanese prints is formed by the brush work of Kuniyoshi. Most of the Kuniyoshi's drawings seem to have survived because they were initially mounted in albums, possibly to serve the dual purpose of providing teaching material for his many pupils and functioning as an aide-mémoire for earlier representation of certain subjects. The general consensus seems to be that the albums were first brought to the West by the Parisian art dealer S. Bing. Two of the albums were bought directly from Bing by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1889. Eight others were reportedly in the collection of Mr. Thomas Stauffer of Chicago as late as in the 1960s. The other albums all seem to have taken apart and dispersed. Many of them were acquired by the Parisian collector Emile Javal. From there, many were acquired by the Dutch collector Ferdinand Lieftinck. The Lieftinck collection of drawings was purchased in 1958 by the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden. See Matthi Forrer, Drawings by Utagawa Kuniyoshi from the collection of the National Museum of Ethnology Leiden, catalogue of the exhibition, The Hague, 1988.

price: 1.700,00 euros

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