Tag Archives: art

Charming Creatures: Sennin Shohei (初平)

From Kuniyoshi’s 1847 series: Sixteen Female Sennin, Charming Creatures. Sennin is a loan word from Chinese, where they were Taoist wise immortals. Pictured on this print, a beautiful woman holds a cloth while her cat eats a fish. An overturned bowl is on the floor behind her. She seems happy and serene but I am unable to find any information on the Sennin Shohei, so part of the meaning is lost on me.

(Enshi jû-roku josen, 艶姿十六女仙)

From Kuniyoshiproject.com:

In addition to the eight principal male immortals, some texts also mention eight female immortals.  This series pair beautiful women with each of these sixteen immortals, with a poem inscribed on each print.  The series is listed as number 58 in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961).

Samurai Bunny Rabbit scream

Master of the incongruous, artist Kuniyoshi (1797-1861), must have laughed at his own creation. The threatening, screaming samurai with a cute bunny rabbit helmet. The first time I saw this print as a small black and white illustration in B.W. Robinson’s excellent book, Kuniyoshi: The Warrior Prints (1982 Cornell University Press), I laughed out loud. It makes me wish I lived 200 years ago so that I could have known such a hilarious person.

Information follows from Fujiarts.com website:

Original Kuniyoshi (1797 – 1861) Japanese Woodblock Print
Hare: Shinozuka Iga no Kami

Series; Japanese Heroes for the Twelve Signs, 1854

Hare: Shinozuka Iga no Kami – Terrific portrait of the legendary samurai Shinozuka Iga no Kami, a retainer of the Nitta Clan renowned for his great strength. He is shown standing on the shore during a battle, the sea raging behind him as he grips a spear with both hands. His mouth is open in a ferocious yell, the flowing white mane of his battle helmet adding to his fierce appearance. The rocky ground below is littered with broken arrows and a fallen standard. Beautifully detailed with subtle burnishing on the black armor and delicate embossing on the flowing white wig of the helmet which is topped with Shinozuka’s emblem of a golden hare. A bold Kuniyoshi warrior design.

Artist – Kuniyoshi (1797 – 1861)

Image Size – 14 1/8″ x 9 5/8″

Poetess as parrot, actor as poetess

Artist Kuniyoshi presents actor Ichikawa Danjuro VIII representing poetess Ono no Komachi in a legendary act (explanation below from the Fujiarts.com website). It’s intriguing that a male actor portrays a woman writer. Any excuse to use the popular actor helped print sales. As with so many works of Kuniyoshi, layers upon layers of association are wrapped in beautiful imagery. Danjuro VIII is an actor who “parrots” a playwright ‘s words. The actor was a famous beauty, and so was the poetess Komachi. Komachi was a historical figure; Kabuki plays are often based on history.

Parrot: Ichikawa Danjuro VIII

Series; Modern Seven Komachi, 1851

Modern Seven Komachi – Handsome design from an 1851 Kuniyoshi series depicting kabuki actors in scenes associated with the famous ninth-century poetess Ono no Komachi. The subjects are taken from a series of seven Noh plays (Nanakomachi) dealing with legendary events during the beauty’s life. A rarely seen series and an interesting choice for a Kuniyoshi collector.

Parrot: Ichikawa Danjuro VIII – Terrific image of Ichikawa Danjuro VIII sitting on a platform over a river, painting folding fans. He looks over his shoulder with a sly expression, a brush in hand and a portable writing set on the tatami mat next to him. Misty clouds rise form the swirling water, with mountains in the distance. The “parrot” episode refers to a poem of pity that the emperor sent to the elderly Komachi. She changed one word of the verse, completely altering its meaning, and returned it to the emperor, demonstrating her wit even though she was “parroting” his words. A lovely composition with beautiful color and detail, and fine bokashi shading.

Artist – Kuniyoshi (1797 – 1861)

Image Size – 13 3/4″ x 9 1/2″

Kuniyoshi

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) is my favorite Japanese print ukiyo-e artist. His draftsmanship, color, and imagination alone mark him as a genius. Although he lived in a time when Japan, as many countries, attempted to subjugate women … Kuniyoshi seems to be, if not a femnist, sensitive and respectful.

This print, that I bought today, is described on the Fujiarts.com website as:

Urazato, Katsumi, and Midori, 1847 – 1852 – Interesting kabuki scene of the courtesan Urazato and her two young kamuro or child apprentices in the snow. Urazato’s employer had forbidden her to see her sweetheart, Tokijiro, and when he discovered they had been meeting, he beat her and left her tied up in the garden in winter. Here, the beauty smiles as she looks up as the couple’s daughter, Midori, shelters her mother from the falling snow with a large hat. Her other kamuro, Katsumi, clings to her knee. A sweet moment between the mother and daughter despite the circumstances, nicely captured with expressive figures and an attractive setting.

Artist – Kuniyoshi (1797 – 1861)

Image Size – 14 3/8″ x 9 3/4″ + margins as shown

Condition – This print with excellent color and detail as shown. Diagonal folds. Creasing and wrinkling, slight toning and soiling. Please see photos for details.