Kunichika Toyohara, Suikoden, Snow Scene, Yuki no Danmari, Tattoo Design
Artists: Kunichika Toyohara (1835-1900)
Title: Suikoden Yuki no Danmari (Silence in the Snow)
Publisher: Komiyama Shohei
Size: (R)36.8 x 25.1 (C)36.9 x 25.0 (R)37.2 x 25.2 cm
Original Japanese woodblock print.
Triptych with actors playing Suikoden heroes Kumonryu (The Nine-dragoned) Shinshin and Kaosho (The Flower Priest) Rochishin fighting each other with long sticks in the kabuki play Suikoden Yuki no Danmari. Kaosho Rochishin's body is tattooed with cherry blossoms and Kumonryu Shinshin is adorned with dragons. Historically, the brief bloom of cherry blossoms symbolises the short life of a warrior, while dragons stand for strength and wisdom as mythical creatures. The 'danmari' of the title is a slow, tense and highly stylised dance, a choreographed performance between two actors in the roles of two heroes of the Suikoden. This play was a success with the audiences partly because of the extraordinary quality of the dance and also because of the dramatic staging and the lavish tattoos that covered the bared bodies of both performers.
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. Since the beginning of the Meiji period, he made a large number of triptychs depicting half length portraits of a single actor on a big format and in luxurious style, applying original composition in this new design of dynamic prints. He got acclaimed for this work that improved the quality of half-length portraits and because those prints became known by their innovative composition, he succeeded in obtaining the full supremacy in the field of yakusha-e (actor prints).
His portrayal of human faces have some traces of his previous studies in hagoita style painting and can appear to be cold and hard, depending on the perspective, but it became a feature characteristic of his style.
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.
|Artist Name||Kunichika Toyohara|
|Title||Suikoden Yuki no Danmari (Silence in the Snow)|
|Subject||Samurai & Male, Kabuki Theatre, Tattoo Design|
|Dimensions||(R)36.8 x 25.1 (C)36.9 x 25.0 (R)37.2 x 25.2 cm|
|Condition Report||Backed, slightly browned, wormholes (covered by backing), ink stain (centre panel).|