Kuniyoshi 国芳: Beauty with Chrysanthemum Robe and Stone from Toyoshima Quarry Scene

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)
Title: Stone from Toyoshima in the province of Sanuki (Sanuki Teshima seki, 讃岐豊島右)
Series: Celebrated Products of Mountains and Seas 山海目出度圖會 Sankai medetai zue
Date: 1852

A beauty dressed to impress in a brilliant red kimono decorated with chrysanthemums seems to be cheerfully departing on an outing. She has a sheaf of paper and a small decorated packet tucked into her robe, and is perhaps turning back to say farewell as she sets out. Her hair has a single large gold-leaf ornament, and the edges of her robe have a deep embossing. In this interesting series Kuniyoshi features portraits of women paired with a provincial product that is shown in the inset cartouche. Here we see quarry workers digging slabs of stone from a quarry using only chisels and mallets; this scene was designed by one of Kuniyoshi’s students, who has signed it at upper right. The printing and freshness of this work is exceptional–but for the minor binding holes at left, it feels as though it could have been printed yesterday. The bright green background is also unusual, providing a springlike contrast to the beauty. There is a flowering plant that surrounds the title cartouche at right, which also must have a connection to the featured place. The desire or feeling that is associated with the quarried stone is “wanting to see parents”, so perhaps returning to the place of one’s origin (?). The layers of meaning and complexity would have delighted the Edo period viewer.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition. Untrimmed and unbacked. Minor binding holes at left, but otherwise exceptionally fresh.
Dimensions: ôban (36.5 x 24.8 cm)
Publisher: Tsutaya Kichizo
Literature: Robinson 1961, no. 117, no. 12. See British Museum number 2008,3037.02110. See also Rijksmuseum.
Seal: kiri
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga