Kunichika Toyohara, Water Margin of Beautiful and Brave Women

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Original Japanese woodblock print.

Artist: Kunichika Toyohara (1835-1900)
Title: Hana Yujo Suikoden. Actors Bando Hikosaburo V, Onoe Kikugoro V, Sawamura Tossho II (R), Otani Tomoemon V, Sawamura Tanosuke III, Iwai Shijaku II, Nakamura Shikan IV (C), Kawarazaki Gonnosuke VII, Bando Mitsugoro VI and Ichikawa Kuzo III (L)
Series: A Water Margin of Beautiful and Brave Women
Publisher: Gusoku-ya
Date: 1869
Size: (L)36.4 x 24.2 (C)35.9 x 24.4 (R) 35.8x24.4 cm
Condition: A few washed out areas. Some creases and stains. A few holes that have been restored.

Female warriors and gangsters were very rare in real life but do sometimes occur as characters in kabuki plays. Similarly, elaborate tattoos were much less common for women than for men but apparently not unknown. In this triptych, Kunichika imagines a group of tattooed women arming for battle. Though the figures represent actual women, their bodies are somewhat androgynous, and their faces are those of famous male actors. Only one of the actors shown, Sawamura Tanosuke III, holding a naginata (traditional weapon for women) was a specialist in female roles. Although a good actor was capable of taking any role, the other actors shown here were best known for playing male heroes, which was probably the humorous intention.

More Information
Print Format Triptych
Artist Name Kunichika Toyohara
Title Hana Yujo Suikoden
Subject Beauty & Female, Samurai & Male, Kabuki
Dimensions (L)36.4 x 24.2 (C)35.9 x 24.4 (R) 35.8x24.4 cm
Publisher Gusokuya Kahei