Kunichika woodblock print

Toyohara Kunichika, (1835-1900)

Fifty-Four Modern Feelings [Matched with the Fifty-Four Chapters of Genji]: Chapter 9,
(Genji gojuyonjo: dai kyu go, Aoi)

signed Toyohara Kunichika hitsu with red Toshidama seal, the publisher's name on the left-hand margin, Takegawa Seikichi han, followed by the block carver, Hori Gin (Asai Ginjiro), undated, ca. 1884

oban tate-e 14 3/4 by 9 7/8 in., 37.4 by 25.2 cm

In 1884 the publisher Takegawa Seikichi produced this series of modern comparisons with the chapters from the 10th century Genji Monogatari ('Tale of Genji'). Each print identifies the chapter number and title; however the compositions (and sometimes the chapter numbers or titles) vary from the original novel. While some include iconic references (with figures in appropriate 11th century court dress) closely associated with a given chapter, other compositions are updated with contemporary clothing and follow the revised story of the Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji (commonly called 'Rustic Genji') a popular adaptation of the novel set in the 15th century which was written by Ryutei Tanehiko (1783-1843) beginning in 1828.

The original version of chapter 9, called Aoi (the name of Genji's tragic wife), incorporates several important and pivotal events in Genji's life. While Genji pines away for one of his lovers who is the favorite consort of his father (the former emperor), Genji's other lovers begin to complain at his lack of attention, including the most troublesome, Lady Rokujo. The chapter ends with Aoi dying in childbirth, rumored to have been haunted by the Lady Rokujo's jealous spirit. After the death of Aoi, Genji decides to make his young ward, Murasaki, his consort. The classic interpretation of chapter 9 depicts Genji trimming the hair of Murasaki as she stands on a Go game board.

Presumably, the subject of awabi divers off the coast of Ise must either be some sort of mitate (parody) of the original Tale of Genji (the significance of which is unclear) or a reference to the Inaka Genji storyline.

Reference:
Amy Reigle Newland, Time present and time past, Images of a forgotten master: Toyohara Kunichika, 1999, p. 20, and p. 64, no. 28 (without deluxe details)

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