Kunichika Toyohara, Three Geisha in the Snow, Kabuki, Onnagata

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Artist: Kunichika Toyohara (1835-1900)
Title: Three Geisha in the Snow
Publisher: Yamamura Kinzaburo
Date: 1877
Dimensions: (L) 24.9 x 36.9 (C) 24.8 x 36.9 (R) 24.8 x 36.9 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.


A snow scene of three onnagata dressed as geisha by a riverside. The importance of design and imagery throughout Japanese culture arguably places it beyond the realm of beautification into something rather spiritual. Drawing on mythological allusions, together the designs on these kimono suggest three of the four Guardian Beasts believed to protect the old capital of Kyoto from the four cardinal directions. One of the geisha has a minogame on their robe: this legendary turtle was said to be so ancient that seaweed and moss has settled on its shell. A dragon and tiger are worn by the other two onnagata, which along with the pine tree adorning the central figure and minogame, express an auspicious arrangement of longevity and immortality. The appearance of a dragon and tiger together was often used as a motif to symbolise great rivalry, each being respectfully the king of air and land. The assembly of such striking and loaded imagery on these kimonos possibly reveals something of the characters these onnagata wish to represent or to the very art form of their professional itself.

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Print Format Triptych
Artist Name Kunichika Toyohara
Title Three Geisha in the Snow
Subject Male & Female, Kabuki Theatre
Dimensions (L) 24.9 x 36.9 (C) 24.8 x 36.9 (R) 24.8 x 36.9 cm
Condition Report Some pinholes on the top margin. Faint horizontal centerfold on left panel. Slight tear on the right corner of the centre panel. Glue residue from the previous mounting.