Kuniyoshi: Preparatory drawing for 2 chuban giga-e of catfish. Mongaku under the waterfall, top and the husband-and-wife rocks, bottom.
Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Title: Preparatory drawing for 2 chuban giga-e of catfish. Mongaku under the waterfall, top and the husband-and-wife rocks, bottom.
Series: Dôke namazu zukushi (Series of Caricatures of Catfish)
Date: ca 1855
Preparatory drawing for 2 unpublished chuban catfish “fun” prints. Above, number 31 in the unpublished series. We see catfish visitors admiring a painting of a muscular catfish monk doing penance under a waterfall. He holds juzu, prayer beads in his left and a Buddhist bell in his right hand. The famous waterfall might be the waterfall of Nachi in Wakayama Prefecture, a famous place for undergoing austerities by Buddhist practitioners. It may even be a depiction of Mongaku, the famous monk that Kuniyoshi depicted in several print designs. The catfish visitors wear coats with the design of gourds. In Japanese there is an expression “hyôtan namazu“ or “namazu” (catfish) ni hyôtan” (gourds), meaning like catching catfish in a gourd, namely an “elusive, non-commital or vague attitude or statement.“ He translates this expression into his depiction here. Below is the design titled “Futami ga ura” (Bay of Futami), numbered 32 in the series. Two travelling catfish are marveling at a famous view of Futami ga ura in the Ise Bay, not far from the Ise Shrine. The two rock formation bound with Shinto sacred rope are famously known as the Husband-and Wife rocks. Here the rocks have been replaced by an octopus couple. The “wife“ rock is turned toward the “husband“ rock, and they seem to study each other with their large, expressive eyes. The “husband” rock even has one tentacle curled in such a way as to look like almost like a moustache. With the publisher’s seal bottom, indicating that this series was very close to publication. The next step would probably have been the approval of the censors, at which time the drawing would bear their seals.
Condition: Excellent good condition. Attached to a stablilizing backing sheet.
Publisher: KIya Sôjirô
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi kyôga