Japanese Antiques by Ichiban Oriental and Asian Art
An Edo Print - Kabuki Play by Utagawa, Kuninao – Edo

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Ichiban Japanese & Oriental Antiques
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Marion, CT 06444-0395

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An Edo Print - Kabuki Play by Utagawa, Kuninao – Edo
This print is of a scene from a famous Kabuki play. The title of the print in English is “New Versions of Floating World Prints – Scene from Act IV of “Chushingura” – a Tale of Forty-Seven Samurai”. It is done in the beni-zuri style and is a Japanese woodblock print on mulberry paper with natural dyes. The framed print measures 2 1/4” by 16 ¾” - the print itself is of standard horizontal oban size, 10 ½” by 14 ¾” .

The print is a light color framed in the print by a series of mons (Japanese crests) in a black border. The play apparently takes place on a raised stage and the audience is seated on three sides. A stream winds its way from under the stage. On the right edge there is a long series of Kanji characters – not translated – but probably describing the action taking place in the play.

The print is in excellent condition – light in color but only light toning as seen on the four borders under the mat. It was framed in acid free matting by a fine framer in Vermont – there are a couple of chips to the frame. We date the print to the late Edo period, circa 1930s-1850.

Kuninao Utagawa, (1793-1854), was one of the early artists using the Uki-e convention of linear perspective into Japanese woodblock prints. He was a pupil of Toyokuni – and a prolific book-illustrator. His prints are quite rare.

Uki-e literally floating picture, by extension perspective picture) refers to a genre of Japanese woodblock print that employs western conventions of linear perspective. Although they never constituted more than a minor genre, pictures in perspective were drawn and printed by Japanese artists from their introduction in the late 1730s through to the mid nineteenth century. The interior of Kabuki theaters was a common subject in Uki-e prints. Interior scenes tend to be favored as it is easier to accurately apply one point perspective to architecture than to landscape. Benizuri-e, literally "crimson printed pictures", are a type of “primitive” ukiyo-e style Japanese woodblock prints. They were usually printed in pink (beni) and green, occasionally with the addition of another color, either printed or added by hand.

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