Yoshu Chikanobu, 1838-1912
Original Keyblock with Print of 'Mirror of the Ages: Lady in Jikyo Era'
(Jidai Kagami: Jikyo no koro)
the original cherry wood keyblock for a print from Chikanobu's Mirror of Ages series from 1897; together with an impression of the corresponding original print with subtle shomenzuri (burnishing) on the hair; signed Yoshu Chikanobu with artist's seal, dated at upper left, Meiji sanju nen ichi gatsu jugo nichi insatsu, Donen dogetsu nijugo nichi hakko (Meiji 30 , January 15), followed by publisher Matsuki Heikichi's address in Nihonbashi; together with original cherry wood keyblock, ca. 1897
keyblock 15 3/8 by 10 3/8 in, 39 by 26.4 cm,
oban tate-e14 1/2 by 9 3/4 in., 36.9 by 24.8
While keyblock and color block sets for 20th century reproduction prints appear on the market from time to time, original keyblocks from original 19th century designs are extremely scarce (and anything earlier is virtually unheard of). This cherry wood keyblock from Chikanobu's Mirror of Ages series is particularly interesting because it has a trapezoid-shaped plug replacing or correcting arguably the most important detail of a print of this type--the facial features of the beauty. What's more amazing, is that with very careful comparison with the print accompanying the block (and the Tokyo Metropolitan Library impression), one can just barely make out the seam of the correction on the actual woodblock print on her cheek and her collar- indicating that the block carver's correction was made very early on in the lifetime of the block, possibly from the beginning of production.
Bruce A. Coats, Chikanobu: Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints, 2006, pp. 186-192
Tokyo Metropolitan Library, acquisition no. 4704-019
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