Kunichika: Advertisement for Dealer of Utensils for the Tea Ceremony (Sold)

  • Sold.

Artist: Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900)
Title: Tea Utensil Dealer, Beauty Yamane Yae and Fabric Design of Umewaka-maru
Series: Tokyo jiman meibutsu awase 東京自慢名物会 (Pictures of Famous Attractions as Pride of Tokyo)
Date: 1896

Fascinating example of an early modern advertisement. It is interesting to note the addition of a beautiful woman as a marketing ploy to an advertisement that is more than 100 years old. At the top we see the shop of a dealer for tea utensils, with a peelaway motif showing the various accoutrements required for the formal Japanese Tea Ceremony. The iconography overall is rather complex, but we have the following explanations via Ms. Michiko Sato-Grube:   

Top: “Dealer of Utensils for Tea Ceremony,  Horitsu/Hottsu Chóemon at 7-4 chome, Nihonbashi-dóri“.  Inaba Chiaki contributes a poem about the tea utensils on the page underneath. ‘yono-naka o chakide ...tóri-machi' meaning roughly the street filled with tasteful tea cups which supplies this world.

Right:  Portrait of a beauty. This is “Yamane Yae of Kado-ya, Fukusuke at Sukiyachó, Nihonbashi“ by Kunichika.  She poses in front of a koto, a Japanese harp and seems to be applying the plectra to her fingers.  Underneath is placed Kunichika’s signature, and the the carver’s stamp: “Hori Ei“.

Left: Baiso Kaoru contributes with “Comparison of Dye Design of Plum and Wisteria of  Mokubo-ji Temple.“ This design is derived from the founding story of Mokubo-ji Temple by the Sumida River: Umewaka-maru (told in the Noh drama: Sumida-gawa),  the son of Yoshida Tadafusa, a high ranking samurai and Hana-gozen, was entrusted under the care and training for a monk of Mt. Hiei Temple in Kyoto after the death of his father. On his travels he was caught by Nobuo Fujita, a human trafficer who planned to sell him in the northern province of Óshú. When they reached Edo, Umewaka passed away next to the Sumida River after such a long journey. In 976 the monk Chú-en built a temple as a grave for Umewaka-maru and named it Sumida-in Umewaka-dera. Later his mother searched his trail and came across the Umewaka-dera and found the grave of her son. This design reflects the story as showing three travelling hats against the backgound of plum (as Umewaka-maru), iesteria (Hana-gozen), and his father or Fujita without design.  The artist of this portion, Baiso Kaoru, uses his other name “Sekine“ as a seal in red. 

This is one of 103 pieces of harimaze-e series, in which  the composition of each sheet is contributed by three artists (hari=sticking, maze=mixing, e=picture).

 The title of the series Tokyo jiman meibutsu-e is decorated with the design of camellia, one of the flowers often used to decorate the niche of the tea room.  The sensu, a folding fan shows the name of rakugo-ka, in their special type of writing. (rakugo-ka=a traditional enjoyable story teller): here “Sanyú-tei Enfuku“. The rakugo-ka brings almost always a fan with him on the stage as an instrument for story telling.

Condition: Excellent impression and color. Very good condition. Album backing. Beautifully printed, with blindprinting in the white areas.
Dimensions: ôban (35.6 x 24.1 cm)
Signatures: Chiaki, Toyohara Kunichika-hitsu, Baiso Kaoru-an (=designed) accordingly