Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)


A Pictorial Commentary on One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets: no. 80, Go-Tokudaiji Sadaijin
(Hyakunin isshu esho: Go-Tokudaiji Sadaijin)

signed Kochoro Toyokuni ga with red Toshidama seal, censor's seals Kinugasa and Hama, followed by the publisher's seal Sanoki (Sanoya Kihei of Kikakudo), ca. 1847

oban tate-e oban tate-e 14 1/8 by 10 in., 36 by 25.5 cm

A young beauty pulls a small cart with a basin for seawater of a type used to collect brine for salt kilns. Her furisode ('swinging sleeves') kimono is decorated with chidori (plovers) on the upper half and seashells on the lower half. The seaside imagery is suggestive of the sad tale of the play Matsukaze which tells of the legend of two sister 'salt carriers' who fall in love with the prince Yukihira who is temporarily banished to their remote beach. When he is called back to court he breaks both their hearts. This design compliments the next print in the series, number 81, illustrating a seated girl with a similarly decorated kimono, together referencing the sisters. Their legend is referred to in the Suma of Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) in which Genji is similarly banished and likewise breaks a lover's heart upon his departure.

After issuing the 37th design in this series (except no. 47) of 100 poet prints, Kunisada changed the framework of the compositions by eliminating the series title and replacing the poem cards with a cartouche in the shape of an open book illustrating the featured poet and poem. Capitalizing on his recent success as illustrator of the serialized novel by Ryutei Tanehiko, Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji (A Rustic Genji by a Fraudulent Murasaki) which was published from 1829-1842, Kunisada introduced Genji-related motifs to 42 subsequent prints this series and referenced his own designs from the covers of the updated Genji. The composition of this print references the first double page of part I of volume 17.

The cartouche in the shape of an open book overlapping a band of genjimon (Genji incense patterns) depicts a portrait of the poet Go-Tokudaiji Sadaijin paired with his poem which was number 81 ( Hyakunin isshu no. 81)

nakitsuru kata wo
tada ariake no
tsuki zo nokoreru

The hototogisu (cuckoo)
when I gaze out towards where
he was singing
all that remains is the moon,
pale in the morning sky

Charlotte van Rappard-Boon, Catalogue of the Van Gogh Museum's Collection of Japanese Prints, 1991. p. 159, no. 188
Joshua S. Mostow, The Hundred Poets Compared, 2007, p. 196 (poem translation)
Jeff Hopewell, Kunisada 100 Poets Prints Derived from Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji Images, Kunisada.de, 2008
Andreas Marks, Genji's World in Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2021, pp. 14-15
(inv. no. 10-5250)

price: $900


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