Kunichika Toyohara, Beauty Playing Koto, Music


Original Japanese woodblock print.

Artist: Kunichika Toyohara (1835-1900)
Title: Beauty Playing the Koto
Publisher: Miyake
Date: 1877
24.7 x 36.6 cm
Condition report: A pinhole.


The koto is an elongated zither, often with thirteen strings. These are stretched over movable bridges which can be adjusted to achieve the desired tone. It is frequently cited in the Tale of Genji and the Tale of Heike. The strings of the koto are plucked using plectrums resembling long, reinforced nails that are attached to the thumb, index and middle finger of the right hand. The gestures used while playing and the sound of the instrument are distinctive and frequently depicted in prints.

Kunichika Toyohara (1835 - 1900)

One of the last great masters of ukiyo-e, Kunichika was inspired by the plays, actors and customs of kabuki theatre. His colourful prints are records of a long lost, decadent underworld of Edo. As a young man, he studied with the ukiyo-e artist Chikanobu, from whom he received his artist name. He then apprenticed under Kunisada and began to produce actor prints in the Utagawa style, though he never used the Utagawa name. Unlike most artists of the period, he made use of strong reds and dark purples, often as background colours, rather than the softer colours that had previously been used. These new colours were made of aniline dyes imported in the Meiji period from Germany. When portraying people he only occasionally showed figures wearing Western dress, despite its growing popularity in Japan. He is also one of the best known artists to have designed a great number of prints featuring tattoos, a genre made popular earlier in Edo period by Kuniyoshi Utagawa.

More Information
Print FormatOban (Vertical)
ArtistKunichika Toyohara (1835 - 1900)
SubjectBeauty & Female, Kimono Design
Size24.7 x 36.6 cm