Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)


A Collection of Charming Tales of Genji: Chapter 2, The Broom Tree
(Genji goshu yojo: Dai ni no maki, Hahakigi)

deluxe printing, the entire background with karazuri (blind printing) of various patterns including shippomon (interlocking circles), genjimon (incense patterns), hishi (diagonal grid of water-chestnuts), and bands of clouds, and further karazuri in a sayagata (interlocking manji) pattern on the white areas of the standing figure's clothing, burnished patterns on clothing of both, lacquer printing of standing screen, and nunomezuri on the square cartouches; each sheet signed Toyokuni ga within artist's Toshidama seal, publisher's seal with address Sho, Ryogoku, Hirokoji, Hayashisho han (Hayashiya Shogoro), carver's seal Yokokawa Hori Take (Yokokawa Takejiro), censor's seal aratame (examined), and date seal mi-juichi (year of the snake [1857], 11th month), 1857

oban tate-e diptych 14 3/8 by 19 1/2 in., 36.6 by 49.6 cm

This diptych is from a lavish series illustrating scenes from the serialized novel, A Rustic Genji by a Fraudulent Murasaki (Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji), a modern update by Ryutei Tanehiko issued from 1829-42 which was based on the 10th century courtly novel, The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari). Illustrated by Kunisada, the Rustic Genji (Inaka Genji), sparked a craze for all things Genji, particularly for imagery related to the adaption and its renamed characters, principally, Mitsuuji, protagonist of the modern Genji. In this scene from the second chapter of Rustic Genji, Mitsuuji (seated while playing the flute), is about to tell the standing Fuji no Kata of his feelings for her.

Both figures wear luxurious clothing, Mitsuuji in a purple kimono with a floral and karakusa (scrolling vine) pattern across the middle section and a red sash decorated with a checked pattern of auspicious motifs. Fuji no Kata wears a beni-dyed kimono with the asanoha (hemp leaf) pattern known as Hanshiro-kanoko (named for the kabuki actor Iwaii Hanshiro V who first wore it for a portrayal of the well-known tragic character Oshichi in March 1809). The kimono is lined with a purple fabric decorated with floral roundels, and her undergarment is also beni-dyed with a geometric pattern called sayagata, based on the interlocking 'manji' kanji which is also embossed on her white collar. Her double-sided obi is dark green with floral roundels over a latice pattern on one side, and solid purple on the other. Apparently overcome with emotion, she steadies herself by gripping the top edge of a tsuitate standing screen, on the floor beside her a thin wisp of smoke rises from an incense burner resting on a gold lacquer tray, the decorative wrapper for the incense folded nearby.

This title of the series, Genji goshu yojo, phonetically sounds very much like Genji go-ju-yon (lit. 'Genji Fifty-Four') in reference to the 54 chapters in the 10th century Tale of Genji, however, the kanji used in the title have a different meaning: goshu means 'collected,' while yojo can be translated as 'charming.' It was produced collaboratively by four different publishers between 1857 and 1861, in a super-deluxe format, utilizing thick paper, with special printing effects including karazuri (blind printing), nunomezuri (textile-weave printing), shomenzuri (burnishing), and extensive bokashi (gradation of color). The background is scattered with specks of yellow and brown in imitation of cut gold and silver-leaf used to embellish special papers and paintings.

Andreas Marks, Genji's World in Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2012, pp. 114-115, no. 51b (image of the scene from the original Rustic Genji); pp.136-137, no. 106
Museum of Fine Art, Boston (www.mfa.org), accession no. 11.41035a-b
The British Museum (www.britishmuseum.org), accession no. 1906,1220,0.1073

(inv. no. 10-5285)

price: $1,600

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)
detail (right sheet)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)
detail (left sheet)


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site last updated
October 3, 2022

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475