Kuniyoshi 国芳: Drawing of Three Kabuki Actor Faces (Sold)

  • Sold.

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)
Title: Drawing of Three Kabuki Actor Faces With Correction
Date: ca 1840s

Original preparatory drawing of three kabuki actors in various roles. At left must be Ichikawa Danjuro VIII. At right might be Ôtani Tomoemon IV. In the middle is an actor in the role of an otokodate, with his scarf tied jauntily about his neck. The face of the central figure has been corrected with pentimento; we can see how very carefully each face was drawn, as even though actor portraits were quite stylized, each individual actor had a unique face shape and expression.  Kuniyoshi created several series of actor portraits that were numerous snapshots to a page, including the Thirty-six Selected Faces (Mitate sanjûroku gosen, 見立三十六顔撰) from 1847, as well as a series of “Playful drawings” 手遊切抜絵 that show six actor portraits to a page, also ca. 1847. The provenance of this drawing is stellar. It is from the Thomas Stauffer collection, whose collection reportedly contained eight Kuniyoshi drawings albums via the dealer Bing. A US collector purchased this work from the dealer Merlin Dailey, who acquired it from the collection of the Chicago collector Thomas Stauffer. Other Kuniyoshi albums are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as the Rijksprentenkabinet, Rijskmuseum and the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. These collections all are assumed to have originated with the French dealer S. Bing, and some through Emil Javal and then through the dealer Felix Tikotin to the collector Lieftinck. 

Size: 11.8 x 19 cm

Condition: Very good condition overall; unbacked, on the original thin drawing paper. 

Reference:  Although this work is unpublished, these books are highly recommended: M. Forrer, Drawings by Utagawa Kuniyoshi - from the collection of the National Museum of Ethnology Leiden; The Hague, 1988. B.W. Robinson, Drawings by Utagawa Kuniyoshi - in the collection of Ferd. Lieftinck of Haren, Holland; Groningen, 1953. Fagioli, Utagawa Kuniyoshi: 90 disegni; Firenze, 1985. Fagioli, Kuniyoshi - an appreciation of his drawings; in: ANDON no. 21; 1986.