Toyokuni III Utagawa, Eitai Bridge, Courtesan, Kabuki

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Artist: Toyokuni III Utagawa (1786 - 1865)
Title: Eitai Bridge
Series: Pictures of Famous Places of Edo
Publisher: Hori-gen
Date: 1852
Size: 36.0 x 24.4 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

Elaborately dressed courtesan stands in front of the crowded Eitai Bridge (lit. Eternity Bridge) on Sumida River. It was first built in 1698 on request of the Shogun Tsunayoshi to celebrate his 50th birthday as the fourth bridge over the Sumida River connecting Edo with Fukagawa.

 

It is said that the famous 47 ronin crossed the bridge when they withdrew from the Honjo Kira residence to Sengaku Temple in order to place the head of the enemy on their late master's grave. A monument was set at the rest stop of the ronin near the bridge.

 

Toyokuni III skilfully applied Prussian blue coloured bokashi (gradation) on the river and sky. The most detailed and eye-catching feature is the courtesan herself and her alluring patterned kimono additionally decorated with karazuri (embossing) technique.

Toyokuni III Utagawa (Kunisada I) (1786 - 1864)


Kunisada I Utagawa was a prolific woodblock print artist mostly known for his pictures of beautiful women (bijinga) and kabuki actors prints (yakusha-e). Born in Edo (today’s Tokyo), he became a pupil of Toyokuni I Utagawa (1769-1825) at the age of 15 and would later adopt his name in the traditional Japanese manner, becoming Toyokuni III and continuing the development of the Utagawa art school.

Kunisada’s pictures reflect the culture of Japan in the years leading up to the country’s opening to the West. His first book illustrations were published in 1807 and his first actor portrait the following year. Alongside theatrical scenes and courtesans, yakusha-e was his preferred genre amidst all his popular and extensive output. As he painted a large number of these, continuing the stout realism of his teacher, he acquired the nickname ‘Yakusha-e no Kunisada’ – Kunisada, the actor painter. In his numerous bijinga he clung to the ideal of beauty prevalent at the time. Most of the women portrayed were courtesans from Yoshiwara, the regulated red-light district of the city.

In 1820s Kunisada joined author Ryutei Tanehiko (1783-1842) to work on illustrating a series of books based on the classical novel ‘The Tale of Genji’, the reinterpreted story having been relocated from the old capital of Kyoto to the new audience in Edo. The work started a new ukiyo-e genre, genji-e, and proved an overnight success, becoming the first Japanese publication to sell over 10,000 copies, a record which stood for many years.

Kunisada gave his audience an escape from the restrictions of their ordinary lives and his designs, with their optimism and energy, still have the capacity today to attract and entertain. Notable students of Kunisada included Kunichika Toyohara, Sadahide Utagawa and Kunisada II Utagawa.

More Information
Print FormatOban (Vertical)
ArtistToyokuni III Utagawa (Kunisada I) (1786 - 1864)
SubjectMale & Female, Kabuki Theatre, Landscapes, Kimono Design
Size36.0 x 24.4 cm
Condition ReportTrimmed, backed, light soiling, some oxidised areas.
SeriesFamous Places of Edo::Hiroshige I Utagawa