Re: Kunisada print identification

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Posted by Guy Pepermans ( on March 27, 2014 at 11:48:15:

In Reply to: Kunisada print identification posted by Alex M. on March 25, 2014 at 17:39:00:

Publisher’s mark: Tsutaya Umejirô (Marks: publisher 557)

Date seal and double ‘nanushi’ censor seal:
date seal Kaei 5, 3rd month – censors Mera & Watanabe
= 3rd month of 1852

The oval mark must be read シ夂賣 (shita-uri).
The ‘shita-uri’ seal (lit. low sale seal) appears in actor prints from 1850/1 to 1853/3. The purpose remains unclear. The position of the ‘shita-uri’ seal is mostly nest to the signature or the publisher seal.
This seal has been documented between II/1850 and II/1853. It was probably used for some years after the relaxation of the severe Tenpô Reforms (1842-47) that banned prints of theatrical subjects. Kabuki depiction had progressed from historical scenes with actors as heroes to flagrant depictions of kabuki, marked only with the "shita-uri" seal that meant such prints were not to be displayed openly in shops, where they might receive the notice of an official (i.e. low sale, or under the counter).
Andreas Marks however, mentions that the term ‘shita-uri’ was in use in other business as well, for example in the fish wholesale where it meant a “negotiated transaction” between two parties. Marks raises the question if this seal was not a new constraint to the market but rather a way of liberalizing it by allowing publishers, with a restricted and limited number of prints, to get away from fixed prices and be more flexible in their pricing.
(Andreas Marks, Publishers of Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Compendium, Hotei, 2011, p. 479-480).


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