Unrecorded Japanese Woodblock Uchiwa Fan Print by Shunei. Ex. Vever Coll
10 x 9 ins. (25.4 x 22.8 cms) Uchiwa (fixed fan) prints are some of the most rare example of Ukiyo-e, if they were mounted as fans they almost certainly would not have survived until the 21st. century. So the rare survivors would usually have been preserved by Japanese collectors, often, as in the case of the present example, as part of albums. The present example signed by Katsukawa Shunei (or Shun'ei) 1762-1819, we purchased at the fourth and last Sothebys sale of prints from the Henri Vever Collection in March 1978. Although the sale was not designated as the Vever Collection it was, in fact, the remainder of the collection after the previous 3 ground breaking sales. The Vever family did not want the illustrious name used as many of the prints were in less than perfect condition and not all carried the Vever red seal. The print was one of two in Lot 114, described as "Yoritomo and Hayata confronting the Nue" (see photo for catalogue entry). At the time we discussed the prints with the late Jack Hillier who had catalogued the collection for Sothebys and he was of the opinion that it was probably a unique survivor and probably unrecorded in any collection, certainly we have been unable to find another example. The design probably dates around 1790-1800.
The "nue" is a mythical animal which combines the tail as a snake, the body of a Japanese Racoon dog, the legs of a tiger and the face of a monkey. More information can be found on Wikipedia until the title "nue". Yoritomo was a 12th. century shogun but it may be that the cataloguer meant Yorimasa to whom Hayata Hiranao was squire. The story of Hayata killing the nue can be found on Google and was the subject of a number of prints, especially those designed by Kuniyoshi and his school.
The print is in good condition with original colour. as with most surviving uchiwa prints there is some trimming. On the right vertical edge are a number of neatly repaired stitching holes indicating its past life in a collector's album. The top and bottom corners on the left have neat repairs to deficiencies which do not affect the image. There is a small repair on a hole in the paper just below the lower "ga" character on the signature and some mild soiling to the surface here and there.
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