Kunisada: Jiraiya and Origami Frog Magic 賊首児雷也 (Sold)
Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865)
Title: The actor Kawarazaki Gonjuro I (Ichikawa Danjuro IX) in the role of Jiraiya 賊首児雷也
Series: Competition of the art of magic done by Toyokuni 豊国揮毫奇術競 (Toyokuni kigô kijutsu arasoi)
The actor Kawarazaki Gonjuro I (Ichikawa Danjuro IX) in the role of Jiraiya, master of Frog Magic. The scene is set with two geese crossing the full moon and mysterious grey clouds rising behind him; Jiraiya fills the page, his brocade robes and distinctive fluffy hairstyle cutting a powerful figure. He reaches into his robe in a casual gesture as his Frog Magic power transforms a sheaf of papers into a parade of origami frogs who arise in order to do his bidding. They float in front of him and then glide through the air; the lead frog carries a note. This note delivery must be an important part of this scene of this popular play. Jiraiya (“Young Thunder”) is the hero of the Japanese folklore Jiraiya Gōketsu Monogatari (The Tale of the Gallant Jiraiya). He is here dressed in a luxurious robe that seems to bear the characters of his name; it is topped with an even more sumptuous quilted over-robe that is decorated with the design of a dragon and clouds. This luxuriously printed series was probably more about showing the public’s favorite actors in their most fantastic roles than in being a record of a current play. The story of Jiraiya, first recorded in 1806, was adapted into a mid-19th-century serialized novel (43 installments, 1839-1868) and a kabuki drama, based on the first 10 installments, by Kawatake Mokuami, in 1852. First edition works from this series, as here, are prized for their luxurious printing. This one is exceptionally clean and completely untrimmed. There is mica in the sky and the lacquer-mimicking treatment of the blacks that gives a shiny effect.
Dimensions: ôban (38.5 x 2643 cm)
Signature: nanajû hachi sai Toyokuni hitsu (brush of Toyokuni at 78 years old)