Kuniyoshi 国芳: Beauty with Chrysanthemum Mochi and Kikujidô (Chrysanthemum Boy) [SOLD]

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)
Title: Ogino-ya 荻の屋
Series: Waterfall-striped Materials in Answer to Earnest Prayer (Daigwan jôju ari-ga-taki-jima, 大願成就有ヶ瀧縞)
Date: Ca. 1845

A beauty, her long hair down after washing, is holding a box of chrysanthemum-shaped mochi (rice cakes).  The chrysanthemum is also part of the design on her tied-on cloak.  Her kimono is striped, and there are often many layers of comparisons found in this interesting series. Inset is Kikujidô, the Chrysanthemum Boy from legend. In the noh play “Kikujido”, set in China, he lives joyfully for 700 years by drinking an immortal elixir from the dew of chrysanthemum leaves upon which he has transcribed passages from a holy Buddhist sutra. We see him with his long hair down, seated in front of a blooming chrysanthemum and holding must what be one of its leaves and perhaps about to copy the sutra upon it.

Regarding this interesting series, the series title contains multiple layers of wordplay. The major theme is waterfalls, both in the larger design as well as for figures in the inset cartouches. In the Japanese Buddhist tradition it was not uncommon to purify the mind and body by standing beneath a waterfall—the most famous example of this in ukiyo-e would be Mongaku. However, it seems that this series also an advertisement to promote kimono, namely  designs of takishima,瀧縞, stylized waterfalls as stripes. Kuniyoshi therefore depicts female figures who seem more like ordinary women than the perfected images of idealized courtesans.  The ten women in this series all wear kimono with designs of takishima, stylized waterfalls as stripes, accompanied by a kyoka poem. The insets introduce related persons in history, mostly with waterfalls behind them. 

The ten waterfalls  in this series are: 1.Otowa-no-taki 音羽の滝with kyooka poem Yamakaze  2. Nunobiki-no-taki 布引の滝with Taira-no-Kiyomori  3.Hakonesan Tamadare-no-taki箱根山玉簾の滝 4. Kikujidoo菊慈童  5. Hako-oo-maru箱王丸  6. Kyoyu許由 . 7. Kinkaku-ji金閣寺  8. Nachi-no-taki那智の滝  9. Narukami鳴神, 10. Kintaroo Koi-tsukami金太郎鯉つかみThis is the fourth in the series. 

Text: 勢州荻の屋 かつしきの枕を越ていがもちの 菊うつくしき妹かたきしま

Provenance: Varshavsky Collection

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition. Untrimmed and unbacked. 
Dimensions: ôban (36.5 x 24.8 cm)
Publisher: Iba-ya Sensaburô
Literature: Robinson 1961, no. 111.4. The Tokyo Metropolitan Central Library has en example with a severe center fold;
Seal: kiri
Signature: Chô-ô-rô Kuniyoshi ga