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


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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” ( 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) 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.


Kunisada I, Utagawa


(A) Very Fine Condition








Fujiokaya Keijiro


Oban (10"x15")



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