Kuniyoshi: Fan Print of a Beauty with Shamisen and Brush (SOLD)

  • Sold.

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
Title: Fan Print of a Beauty Holding a Brush, a Shamisen nearby
Series: Set of Voluptuous Melodies (Enkyoku-zoroe)
Date: 1853

A fan print, uchiwa-e, of a beauty next to a shamisen signing a gift note. An uchiwa is a flat fan, (unlike the sensu or ogi, folding fans), which were popular among the common folk of Edo during the hot and humid summer, and which often had a woodblock print pasted to the front and back of the fan. The fan in general has long been a gift item, both personal and as gifted from shops, etc.

Here we see a beauty with shimada hair style, a style for an unmarried woman. She is  in a blue kimono decorated with yuki-wa, snowflake rings, and is turning  her head away from her writing, as if she is talking to someone nearby. She holds a noshi-bukuro, a folded gift envelope, which seems to be for a happy occasion, judging from mizu-hiki in chó-musubi, the butterfly knot in the center of the envelope. This knot on the envelope indicates that it is a gift for a happy occasion that happens more than once, whereas mizu-hiki in musubi-kiri are used for the occasions which should not be repeated--such as a wedding or funeral. Also, the number of strings used for the knot should show the difference: an uneven number of the strings for mizu-hiki in cho-musubi, and an even number for unhappy occasions. Here the strings used for mizu-hiki in cho-musubi are four, an even number, which does not match exactly to this rule. She seems about to write the occasion on the envelope that she is preparing as a gift. 

She seems to be a teacher for rokyoku singing or gidayu story telling (singing accompanied by a shamisen). Her text books are on the shelf. It was the time when female performers for singing gidayú had begun. The cover of the book on top says “hana-guruma”, (Flower Carriage). At the back we see a blue kimono with patterns of sasa, bamboo grass in a circle, (probably a man’s yukata, a summer kimono) spread over a standing bamboo screen. (With thanks to Ms. Michiko Sato-Grube for her translation assistance.)

Condition: Very good impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: uchiwa-e (24 x 29.5 cm)
Publisher: San-pei (who was known as an uchiwa fan wholesale dealer in Edo)
Literature: The same design is in shown in the online Varshavsky Collection in San Francisco, California. Another image from the same series in the British Museum.
Seal: Censor’s seals of Mura and Fuku
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga