This is View of Minakuchi (Minakuchi no zu), from Utagawa Kunisada’s series “Famous Beauties of the Fifty-three Stations of the Tôkaidô Road” (Tôkaidô gojûsan tsugi no uchi), published ca.1835 and commonly referred to as the “Bijin Tokaido“.
Ukiyo-e has many favorite themes, and two of the most famous artists of early ukiyo-e had a tendency to collaborate or “riff” off of each other. The Tokaido is one such a subject and bijin-ga (beautiful women) are another one… so why not combine them? The result is here: Kunisada’s Bijin Tokaido.
The Woodblock Print
This chuban-sized woodblock is in fair condition. It is unbacked and without margins, which is typical for prints seen from this series, but the color is a bit faded and significant toning to the paper (albeit even toning). A few very small pinholes within the print.
About the Artist
Utagawa Kunisada I (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 Utagawa Kunisada 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.