Far East, Japan, Edo period, mid-19th century CE. Three fine Japanese woodblock prints of the ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) style, including examples attributed to Utagawa school as well as the Tale of Genji written by the famous lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu. This classic work of Japanese literature, written in the 11th century, paints a wonderful portrait of courtly life in medieval Japan and is widely touted to be the world's first novel. The story tells of the passionate prince Genji's love affairs and political escapades. Woodblock prints were used in Japan as early as the 8th century to illustrate texts. By the 18th century japanese wood block techniques evolved and the first polychrome prints or nishiki-e were commissioned for wealthy patrons of the Edo period. This period is known for marvelous woodblock prints of female beauties, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, and courtesans of the infamous pleasure districts. In time the repertoire expanded to include romantic landscapes, flora and fauna, and dramatic historical events. Each of the examples featured in this lot presents the characteristic birds-eye view, penchant for strong line, and appreciation for brilliant, saturated hues that are hallmarks of this fine Japanese artform. Works such as these played a major role in the West's perception of Japanese visual culture during the late 19th century when Japonism exerted a powerful influence on French Impressionists such as Degas, Manet, and Monet, Post-Impressionists including Van Gogh, even pioneering Art Nouveau artists such as Toulouse-Lautrec. Size: each print measures approximately 9" L x 6.25" H (22.9 cm x 15.9 cm); matted 13.25" x 10.5" (33.7 x 26.7 cm)
Condition: Intact and excellent. Some creasing from folds.
Provenance: Ex-private East Coast USA collection.
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