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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Artist: Miyagi Gengyo (宮城玄魚)

Print: Nakamura Fukusuke I (中村福助) as Danshichi Kurobei (團七九郎兵衛) from the series Matches for Thirty-six Selected Poems (Mitate sanjūrokkusen - 見立三十六句撰) - the inset at the upper left is by Miyagi Gengyo  

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Dates: 1857,created
Dimensions: 8.75 in,13.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print
Inscription:

Signature: Kōchōrō Toyokuni ga
香蝶楼豊国画
Artist's seal: toshidama

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Waseda University; National Diet Library; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Tokyo Metropolitan Library; Ritsumeikan University;

Physical description:

This print is trimmed to the image. If it wasn't it would show the publisher on the left margin. The publisher was Sagamiya Tōkichi (Marks 435 - seal 24-009), aka Aito. Its seal can be seen on the example in Boston.

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Although the inset image at the top of this print is not signed it is by Miyagi Gengyo. Other insets in this series, which are consistent in their design, are signed by that artist.

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The text reads:

朝露仁汚天涼瓜之泥

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The series

"In 1856, two years after the American Commodore Perry had forced Japan to open its harbours to foreign countries, the 71-year-old print artist Kunisada (1786-7864) had a meeting with three publishers to discuss the production of a new series of woodblock prints. They must have had a premonition that Japan was entering a new era, but continued business as usual and decided to issue another traditional series of woodblock prints, titled Comparisons to a selection of thirty-six verses (Mitate sanjurokkusen). Each print would show a poem in combination with a scene from the Kabuki stage. The term mitate (comparison, parody, allusion) in the title suggests the prints of the series also challenged buyers to find connections between the poems and the Kabuki scenes. Most likely the series aimed at Kabuki devotees and those interested in poetry. By the mid-19th century literacy among Japan's townspeople was very high. Books were widely available and membership of poetry clubs enjoyed unprecedented popularity. Anthologies with hundreds of amateur verses, often with humorous or parodic varieties of classical Japanese poems, were published in ever greater numbers."

Quoted from: 'Surprise comparisons in Kunisada's print series Mitate sanjūrokkusen' in Andon 96 by Henk Herwig, Jos Vos and Paul Griffith, p. 37.