Re: Understanding a Toyokuni Kunisada print

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Posted by David Librali on February 26, 2002 at 04:48:00:

In Reply to: Understanding a Toyokuni Kunisada print posted by Mathew MURRAY on February 25, 2002 at 13:38:58:

Hi Matthew,

Your print represents a kabuki play, the main character of which is Jiraiya. Jiraiya plays were very popular in the 1840s and 50s, the era this print is likely from (the seals seem to suggest 1852--2 censors and a date seal--though I couldn't read them to be sure.) The artist is Toyokuni III (Kunisada I)

The scene seems to represent a fight between Jiraiya on the right and a character whose name I could not make out in the scan on the left (first character "Mu" or "Yume", last "kichi"). The rooftop fight motif was likely borrowed from the Bakin story "Nanso Satomi Hakkenden". The rooftop fight scene was a big hit in this play, and seems to have been worked into this Jiraiya play.

Jiraiya plays gave us some fantastic woodblock prints. Being full of magic and supernatural/melodramatic events, the play was a feast for printmakers. My favorite pieces from this play show a toad wizard with scaly skin surrounded by reptiles and toads. Yours is a good dramatic piece too though.

You might try a kabuki dictionary to find more on Jiraiya.

: I recently got a diptych that I was told to be of Toyokuni Kunisada that I enclose for your inspection. I would very much want to understand it because it makes it so much more interesting.
: Not knowledgeable enough of japanese history (although I do try, but I
: still have a long way to go !), I just cannot hook up this print to
: anything and I would be very grateful if you could tell me more about it.
: Who are the two samourai ?
: Who are they fighting ?
: What historical event does this scene relate to ?

: I feel very frustrated by being unable to understand any of the japanese
: ideograms on the print and consequently would be very grateful for
: whatever you could let me know because it makes it so much more
: interesting.

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