Kuniyoshi: Original Preparatory Drawing of Toyotomi Hideyoshi Destroying a Temple (Reserved)

Utagawa Kuniyoshi

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)
Title: Brush Drawing for an illustration from Ehon Kunkoki of Toyotome Hideyoshi Wreaking Havoc in a Temple
Date: ca 1850s

Original preparatory drawing for a woodblock illustration for the ehon Picture Book of the Exploits of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Ehon Toyotomi Kunkôki shohen ichi). This is from Part 1, Volume I, pages 13 and 14. The text was written by Ryusuite Tanekiyo with illustrations by Kuniyoshi. This first volume was published in 1857 by Izumiya Ichibei. We see a young Hideyoshi as a temple acolyte with a very determined look on his face as he uses a metal lamp stand stand as a weapon of destruction, swinging it with terrible results. The seated (Amida) Buddha statue has had its head shorn off--the head and the table  offerings are shown flying in midair towards the ground. The temple monks are naturally dismayed and terrified, each reacting in a different way. The one at far left seems to call for help; the middle monk seems to be stepping upon his own bundle of prayers as he shields his face. At right the monk seems to be falling backwards, and calling out for the young man to stop. When comparing with the finished print, we see a number of changes. The background patterns have changed, and the placement of some of the flying objects as well as the position of Hideyoshi and how he holds the weapon have also changed. The Buddhist text at far left has been omitted, and patterns have been added to the hanging cloth. In the drawing there is pentimenti in three different areas; on the face of Hideyoshi, on the lotus offering vase, and on the hand of the monk in the middle. We see where Kuniyoshi made a rather precise practice sketch in the upper left cloud of the lamp stand that Hideyoshi holds. In terms of the process of creating the finished woodblock print, this would serve as the initial design that was definitely done directly by Kuniyoshi’s hand. From it, a more polished and finalized design would have been made by copying this original; the final drawing would have been destroyed in the process of creating the print, as it would have been pasted down onto the block for the carver to create the keyblock from. The provenance of this drawing is excellent. It is from the Thomas Stauffer collection, whose collection reportedly contained eight albums via the dealer Bing, who purchased them in the 1880s. There were many Kuniyoshi drawings that were assembled into albums following the death of Kuniyoshi; the last group of these albums that ever surfaced for public sale took place in 1992 at Sothebys, and that group was purchased by Herbert Egenolf, founder of Egenolf Gallery Japanese prints. Note that an example of the finished ehon (part I, Vol 1) will accompany this work. (The woodblock image here is for illustrative purposes only and is in the public domain, and differs from the included woodblock print.)

Condition: The drawing has been mounted onto a thin backing paper for stability. There are losses at the corners as well as a repaired tear; unique, original preparatory drawings such as this must be accepted in as-is condition, as they often show signs of wear. The great majority of them have been lost. It was also common to see stray marks on his drawings from where Kuniyoshi would be testing his brush.
Dimensions: Approx. 20.8 x 29.1 cm

Literature:  Although this work is unpublished, these books are highly recommended:
- M. Forrer, Drawings by Utagawa Kuniyoshi - from the collection of the National Museum of Ethnology Leiden; The Hague, 1988.
- B.W. Robinson, Drawings by Utagawa Kuniyoshi - in the collection of Ferd. Lieftinck of Haren, Holland; Groningen, 1953.
- Fagioli, Utagawa Kuniyoshi: 90 disegni; Firenze, 1985.
- Fagioli, Kuniyoshi - an appreciation of his drawings; in: ANDON no. 21; 1986

Woodblock print image credit:  Chester Beatty Library https://viewer.cbl.ie/viewer/image/J_1657_1/20/


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