A few via FromJapan

I always use an agent in Japan to buy for me because most sellers on Japanese auction sites don’t do international shipping and it’s very difficult to chat with them because my Japanese is non-existent. But every now and then an agent will refuse to deal with a particular seller and you have to look around for one that does.

I’m not a massive fan of FromJapan because they tend to be a bit more expensive than my usual agent but they do work with a particular seller that has been selling a huge collection from someone who specialised in Kunichika prints and collected over 45 years! The prints themselves are a mixture of quality but most are very good, despite the seller’s terrible photos! So here are a few images of the prints I bought in the last few months.

(WIP) Kunichika: Ichimura Kakitsu IV (aka Onoe Kikugoro V), Bandō Mitsugorō VI & Ichikawa Kodanji IV in the play “Tsuki no Demura Rokuya no Hitofushi” (月出村二十六夜諷) performed at the Ichimura-za theatre from 15th of the 8th month 1864

When I saw this one I just had to have it – it’s just the sort of print I like to collect, with the oatsurae cloth background and I love the swirling text in simulated brush strokes over this. The quality isn’t perfect but the paper is very thin, which explains this and it is a design I have never seen before. 

(WIP) Kunichika: Onoe Kikugorō V, Nakamura Fukusuke IV & Ichikawa Danjūrō IX in the play “Uraomote Chūshingura” (裏表忠臣蔵, a variant of Kanadehon Chūshingura [仮名手本忠臣蔵]), staged at the Kabuki-za theatre from 4th June 1887

In complete contrast this is a terrible quality print – huge chunks of it are missing and it is very dirty and worn, so why on Earth would I buy it? Well, I liked the design with all those mon and the movement of the tossed cloths floating in the air. I have also never seen that particular salmon pink coloured background used in any other design and I suspected that this collector must have also rated it if he bought it. The price was also ridiculously low too (¥2000)!

(WIP) Kunichika: Kawarasaki Gonjurō I as Yokozō, actually (jitsu wa) Yamamoto Kansuke, and Bandō Hikosaburō V as Jihizō, actually Naoe Yamashiro in the play “Ono no Tōfū Aoyagi Suzuri” (小野道風青柳硯, “Ono no Tōfū, the inkstone and green willow tree”) staged at the Nakamura-za theatre from month 7, 1863

This is a bit of an unusual buy too – it’s 2 orphaned pages and I usually only buy complete triptychs unless I am buying duplicate pages, just for interest. But this was unusual in that the only copies I could see for sale were ALL this exact 2-page orphaned arrangement. There are complete copies in museums but perhaps something happened to the batch of first pages which made them scarcer? Anyway, it is a rather lovely composition with amazingly coloured clothes and bokashi used to creat a double fade on the right-hand character. It also featured a very unusual signature (Ichihosai Kunichika, 一鴬斎国周画), which Kunichika only seems to have used in the very early 1860s.

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