This shunga, published in 1838, is from a series(?) variously called “Comparison of Flowers of the Stations” or “The Floral Road to the Capital”, a seeming riff on Hiroshige’s 53 Stations of the Tokaido which was published a few years earlier in 1832 to wide success. In the 24th station, Oi River at Kanaya, Hiroshige shows how travelers are carted across the river, some on palanquins, some simply on the shoulders of the ferrymen.
In this print, comprised of two book-plates that are joined, Kunisada illustrates how some of those river crossings were more pleasurable than others. While the man in the front seems to be enjoying and excited about his passenger, his compatriot does not seem nearly as enthused!
The Woodblock Print
This woodblock is conjoined book plates, combining to form a 8.75″x10.75″ print. The entire print is in excellent condition especially considering being published in 1838. The color is rich and detailed, the verso is clean, margins intact with little edge wear. The very delicate paper is in excellent condition without any creases, worm holes, etc. A very fine example.
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.