Utagawa Kunisada – Imayo oshi-e kagami, Ichikawa Dando VI as Aragoro Mohei

Out of stock

Additional information

Artist

Kunisada I, Utagawa

Condition

(A) Very Fine Condition

Date

1840s-1860s

Edition

Lifetime

Movement

Ukiyo-e

Publisher

Fujiokaya Keijiro

Size

Oban (10"x15")

Subjects

Actor

From 1859 until 1861 Kunisada designed a series of kabuki actor head portraits shown as reflections in a mirror. The design format of using a mirror was popular among ukiyo-e artists and was used for instance also by Utamaro for the display of courtesan portraits. This print is a bust portrait of Ichikawa Dando VI as Aragoro Mohei reflecting in a mirror with a poem by the actor inscribed above.

The title of this series, “Imayo Oshie Kagami“, is often translated as “Mirror of Today’s Picture” (kunisada.de) or “Mirror of Contemporary Pictures” or “Mirrors for Collage Pictures in the Modern Style”. The series was published between 1859 and 1861 by Fujiokaya Keijiro. The series is on display by the British Museum and the Fine Arts Museum of Boston as part of the collection of William Sturgis Bigelow.

The Woodblock Print

This oban-sized woodblock is in very fine condition; great color, even tone, no discolorations to the printed areas, general clean and intact edges. A clean verso, but some light “firming up” of the edges with washi paper (seen in the verso image).  A small hole in the lower left corner that isn’t noticeable as it fits in with the design.

About the Artist

Utagawa Kunisada I (1786 – 1865), also known as Toyokuni III, was a prominent Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock print artist who lived during the Edo period. His birth name was Sumida Shōgorō, and he later adopted the art name Toyokuni when he became a student of Toyokuni I, his first and most significant teacher. Kunisada’s artistic career spanned several decades, and he played a crucial role in the development of the ukiyo-e genre.

Kunisada’s early training under Toyokuni I, a respected ukiyo-e artist, greatly influenced his artistic style. Toyokuni I was a master of kabuki actor prints (yakusha-e), and this focus on theater and actors became a distinctive feature of Kunisada’s work. Kunisada’s prints often depicted actors in dramatic roles, showcasing his mastery of capturing facial expressions and emotions. His ability to convey the essence of kabuki performances contributed to his popularity during his time.

Throughout his career, Kunisada had numerous students who went on to make significant contributions to the ukiyo-e tradition. Notable among his students was Kunisada II, who continued the artistic legacy and adopted the name Toyokuni II. The relationship between Kunisada and his students was not merely that of teacher and pupil; it was a collaborative and dynamic exchange that shaped the evolution of ukiyo-e. Kunisada’s influence extended beyond his immediate students, impacting the broader ukiyo-e movement.

One of Kunisada’s notable styles was his mastery of bijin-ga, or images of beautiful women. He skillfully portrayed women in various roles and settings, emphasizing their grace and elegance. His bijin-ga prints became highly sought after and contributed to the broader popularity of ukiyo-e as an art form. Kunisada’s versatility is also evident in his landscapes and historical scenes, showcasing his ability to capture a wide range of subjects.