Kunichika Series: Famous actors and ‘kae-uta’ verses, 1870

This is a lovely and quite unusual series in that it is in the smaller chuban format, half the size of the usual oban.  

Title: A series of famous actors and ‘kae-uta’ verses, 1870; Signed: Kunichika hitsu with toshidama ring (plus a novice signature?); Date: 1870 / 6; Publisher: 大橋 Ōhashiya Yashichi 大橋屋 弥七; Carver: Hori Yasu 彫安. 

Comment from Paul Morris Griffith: The prints feature a kind of parodic verse known as ‘kae-uta’ (替え唄), where an existent melody is given new lyrics, usually for comic effect. Each of your prints illustrates a different kind of ‘kae-uta’ so, for example, the second design is called ‘Ujicha no kae-uta’ (宇治茶のかえ唄, ‘a kae-uta for Uji tea’). The lyrics are given at the top and the second signature you mention is ‘Enshi jutsu’ (燕枝述), which is the name of the Rakugo storyteller Enshi I who ‘related’ the lyrics. Most of the actors, you’ll have noticed, are identified by their ‘haimyō’ poetry names.

Here are the signatures and seals on the images:

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