Kuniyoshi 国芳: Beauty Passing Through Bamboo Noren

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)
Title: Hatsuhana beneath Waterfall
Series: Waterfall-striped Materials in Answer to Earnest Prayer (Daigwan jôju ari-ga-taki-jima, 大願成就有ヶ瀧縞)
Date: Ca. 1845

A beauty smiles as she grasps the the beads of a hanging noren curtain as she passes into the entrance of a shop. In the inset cartouche is Hatsuhana, seen praying under the waterfall at Hakone for the recovery of her crippled husband. The hanging beads echo the stream of the waterfall, and both women have have peaceful, contented expressions. Hatsuhana was said to have prayed for one hundred days beneath the waterfall to the deity Hakone Gongen for the benefit of her husband Iinuba Katsugoro. The obi of the main figure features an oxidizing lead orange pigment.

Regarding this interesting series, the series title contains multiple layers of wordplay. The major theme is waterfalls, both in the larger design as well as figures in the inset cartouches. In the Japanese Buddhist tradition it was not uncommon to purify the mind and body by standing beneath a waterfall—the most famous example of this in ukiyo-e would be Mongaku. However, this series was more of an advertisement to promote kimono, namely  designs of takishima,瀧縞, stylized waterfalls as stripes. Kuniyoshi chose, therefore, the  female figures seem more like ordinary women than images of idealized courtesans.  The ten women in this series all wear kimono with designs of takishima, stylized waterfalls as stripes, accompanied by a kyoka poem. The insets introduce related persons in history, mostly with waterfalls behind them. 

The ten waterfalls  in this series are: 1.Otowa-no-taki 音羽の滝with kyooka poem Yamakaze  2. Nunobiki-no-taki 布引の滝with Taira-no-Kiyomori  3.Hakonesan Tamadare-no-taki箱根山玉簾の滝 4. Kikujidoo菊慈童  5. Hako-oo-maru箱王丸  6. Kyoyu許由 . 7. Kinkaku-ji金閣寺  8. Nachi-no-taki那智の滝  9. Narukami鳴神, 10. Kintaroo Koi-tsukami金太郎鯉つかみ

Condition: Excellent impression and color; very good condition. Minor restoration to paper upper right and restored binding holes at left.

Dimensions: ôban (37.1 x 25.3 cm)
Publisher: Iba-ya Sensaburô
Literature: See Heroes and Ghosts number 125, page 127. Nagoya City Mus., Takaki Shigeru Ukiyo-e Collection (2001), #204; the series: Robinson, Kuniyoshi (1961), list #111. See MFA website. Seal: kiri
Signature: Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga