Kunichika Toyohara, Kabuki Play, Muramasa Sword, Ghost


Artist: Toyohara Kunichika
Title: Konoma no Hoshi Hakone no Shikabue
Date: 1880
Publisher: Fukuda Kumajiro
Size: (L) 35.7 x 23.8, (C) 35.6 x 23.9, (R) 35.7 x 23.8 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.


In popular culture, Muramasa swords have been often depicted as cursed swords with demonic powers. Muramasa was a most skillful smith but a violent and ill-balanced mind verging on madness, that was supposed to have passed into his blades. They were popularly believed to hunger for blood and to impel their warrior to commit murder or suicide. It has also been told that once drawn, a Muramasa blade has to draw blood before it can be returned to its scabbard, even to the point of forcing its wielder to wound himself or commit suicide. Thus, it is thought of as a demonic cursed blade that creates bloodlust in those who wield it.

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 FormatTriptych
ArtistKunichika Toyohara (1835 - 1900)
SubjectMale & Female, Kabuki Theatre, Ghosts & Religion
Size(L) 35.7 x 23.8, (C) 35.6 x 23.9, (R) 35.7 x 23.8 cm
Condition Report Backed, slightly trimmed, aper residue, colour transfer on the central panel.
publisherFukuda Kumajiro, Hatsujiro:1874-1898