The artist of this diptych is Utagawa Kunisada I, signing the print “Gototei Kunisada ga“. It’s a kabuki diptych, the actors (from left) are Ichikawa Ebizō V and Iwai Shijaku I as Kobayashi Asahina (小林朝比奈) and Oiso no Tora (大磯のとら) in the play “Fude hajime mazebari Soga“, performed at the Kawarazki theatre in 1838; publisher is Jōshūya Jūzō.
The Woodblock Prints
This oban diptych seems to be exceptionally rare, we’re unable to find any examples of it either in institutional holdings or in recent sale records. Both prints are in condition commensurate with their age, having worn edges, washi-tape repairs, crinkles to the thin paper, and small boreholes. They are both complete, not having been trimmed, with even toning and rich color.
About the Artist
Kunisada Utagawa (1786 – 1865) was a prolific, successful and at his time highly appreciated leading designer of ukiyo-e Japanese woodblock prints. Born near Edo as the son of an affluent merchant with a ferry boat license, at the age of 15 Kunisada joined the famous art school of Utagawa Toyokuni and took the artist name Kunisada.
In 1807 Kunisada Utagawa produced his first illustrated book and in 1808 his first actor prints were published. While other artists like Kuniyoshi Utagawa or Hiroshige had to fight for recognition for years, he was successful from the beginning and would become the most commercially successful of all woodblock printmakers ever. Kunisada designed a wide spectrum of traditional ukiyo-e subjects like kabuki themes, beautiful women, historical events and quite a few shunga prints.