Re: Utamaro Woodprint

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Posted by Hans Olof Johansson on February 25, 1998 at 11:30:52:

In Reply to: Utamaro Woodprint posted by Sue on February 04, 1998 at 21:17:37:

: We have been told by the curator of the Chicago Art Institute that this woodprint is of two Kabuki actors -- could you give any information on which actors/whether this is part of a series and any idea of date. While I know you do not appraise these prints, do you have any idea of a value range. Are some prints by Utamaro more valuable than others and why. I have looked at several of the auction sites and galleries and it appears there are very few Utamaro works for sale -- are these more scarce than other artists? One other question, I read somewhere in the Orientations links that there were only a few hundred prints made from the original wood blocks. While visiting with the curator, he mentioned a range of between 2,000 - 4,000. Do you have any idea how many of these Utamaro prints may have been made from the original wood block?

: Thanks for any help you can offer.

Sorry for the long delay in replying.

I assume that your image file doesn't cover the whole print, and that there is a signature on the lower part of it. Are there any other writing, seals or marks on it, as well? Though I cannot see the signature, I believe that this print may well have been designed by Utamaro. Obviously, it is a depiction of a scene from the play Junshoku yaoya Oshichi, about a greengrocer's daughter falling in love with a temple boy-servant, who is called Kichisaburô in the play. The characters in the upper left corner read Oshichi Kichisabu.

As you have observed, there are very few genuine Utamaro prints available on the market today. There are, however, lots and lots of reproductions and facsimile reprints around. Judging from your image file, your picture looks like a rather badly printed facsimile, where the woodblocks haven't been properly fitted.

The curator of the Chicago Art Institute is undoubtedly very knowledgeable in other fields, but he obviously doesn't know much about ukiyo-e prints, unless you have misunderstood the information he gave you. The original woodblocks could not be used for more than a couple of hundred prints with an acceptable quality.

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