Kunichika Toyohara, Mirror of Osaka, Tattoo Design

£4700
SKU
JG091905-1
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Artist: Kunichika Toyohara (1835-1900)
Title: Natsumatsuri Naniwa Kagami (A Mirror of Osaka, Summer Festival)
Publisher: Okura Shirobei
Date: 1883
Size: (L) 35.5 x 25.3 (C) 35.4 x 25.3 (R) 35.3 x 25.3 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

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The scene depicted here is one of kabuki's most famous episodes, the 'Nagamachi noura no ba' (Back Street Scene in Nagamachi). Overcome with rage, Danshichi, his knotted hair falling to his shoulders, strips down to a red loincloth, revealing his tattooed body. Danshichi takes the old man's life with a thrust of his sword, then washes splattered blood and Giheiji’s muddy handprints from his body, using water from a nearby well. He escapes by mingling with the large crowd of festival celebrants.

In stage performances during Japan's hot summers, the use of real mud and real water would have given the audience a pleasant feeling of coolness.

Kunichika Toyohara


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
Artist NameKunichika Toyohara
SubjectSamurai & Male, Kabuki Theatre, Tattoo Design
Dimensions(L) 35.5 x 25.3 (C) 35.4 x 25.3 (R) 35.3 x 25.3 cm
Condition ReportSome wear and light stains on the margins. Minor glue spots. Binding holes.
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