Kuniyoshi: Preparatory drawing for 2 chuban giga-e of catfish. Crab blacksmith, top.
Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Title: Preparatory drawing for 2 chuban giga-e of catfish. Crab blacksmith, top.
Series: Dôke namazu zukushi (Series of Caricatures of Catfish)
Date: ca 1855
Preparatory drawing for 2 chuban catfish “fun” prints. Above, a crab blacksmith hammers a sword, titled Sanjô kogani” (Small Crab of Sanjô). A crab in swordsmith attire is hammering the blade of a sword in front of Shinto altar. A catfish in Shinto priest attire is also hammering in turn. The Shinto altar has shimenawa, a sacred straw rope across the wall and on a high tray a pair of omiki tokkuri, sake bottles with sacred white paper. The blade-making is considered to be sacred action. Kuniyoshi plays with the name of the famous swordsmith Sanjô Kokaji/Munechika from the Sanjô part of Kyoto. His sword is named kyò-mono. Kuniyoshi uses a crab which is famous for its scissorslike claws for cutting. There is pentimenti on the series title and the design title containing small corrections. This chûban series of humorous print was never published, but it got as far as having the publisher’s seal affixed to it in the process. Below is “Omi no Okane” (Okane from Ômi Province) intended for the same series of catfish prints. Signed: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi kyôga (kyôga meaning crazy picture). This is a caricature of the famous strong-woman scene, in which a catfish as Okane, the strong country girl, put her foot on the lead rope of a panicked horse to calm him down. Mago, a packhouse driver, slips down on the ground. Kuniyoshi makes this horse out of many shapes of hyòtan, gourds. In Japanese there is an expression “hyôtan namazu“ or “namazu ni hyôtan“, meaning “elusive, non-commital or vague attitude or statement.“ He delights in wordplay here. With the seal of the publisher Kiya Sôjirô, firm name Kôbokudô. He published a series by Kuniyoshi in 1855.
Condition: Excellent condition. Attached to a stablilizing backing sheet.
Publisher: KIya Sôjirô
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi kyôga