Toyokuni III Utagawa, Kabuki Actor Kataoka Ichizo as Carpenter, Tattoo Design


Artist: Toyokuni III Utagawa (1786-1865)
Title: Kataoka Ichizo
Series: Edo Jiman Uwasa Benkei
Publisher: Otaya Takichi
Date: 1861
Size: 25 x 36.4 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print. 

The shitamachi area of Edo was home to a huge number of highly skilled artisans. Competition among these artisans gave rise to a special artisan temperament and sense of pride. The master craftsmen of Edo held their entire self-esteem on their technical ability, speed and precision.

In this print, kabuki actor Kataoka Ichizo poses as a carpenter, with tools of trade displayed on a tray he proudly carries on his shoulder. As it was often the case with outdoor labourers in those times his arms are covered in tattoo designs. Tattoos were especially favoured by men who did manual labour, particularly jobs in which it was common to strip down to minimal clothing for comfort and ease of movement. Couriers, palanquin bearers, construction workers and firefighters were the most common groups to bear their tattoos.

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)
SubjectKabuki Theatre, Tattoo Design
Size25 x 36.4 cm
Condition ReportSoiling and a few stains. Minor holes that have been restored. A few loose paper fibres and light creases.
publisherOtaya Takichi:1848-1867