Kuniyoshi: Strange Collection of Fantastic Peoples; Life-Sized Dolls 浅草奥山生人形 (SOLD)

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Title: Life-sized Dolls Exhibited at Asakusa Okuyama (Asakusa Okuyama iki-ningyô) 浅草奥山生人形      
Date: 1855

We see a strange collection of fantastic peoples, including a man with ultra-long legs holding a man with ultra long arms as he catches a fish. We also see two men at right wearing unusual garments who carry a third by inserting a pole through the hole in the man’s chest. He seems to be enjoying the scenery while being carried.

During the celebration of the official opening of the doors of the sanctuary that houses the likeness of Kanzeon (Kannon) 観世音, the Goddess of Mercy, at Sensô-ji Temple浅草寺 in February 1855, the life-size dolls by Matsumoto Kisaburoo 松本喜三郎 from Kumamoto Pref. were exhibited at Asakusa Oku-no-yama, behind the temple.  This area was designed for misemono-goya, huts for sideshows. These large dolls in fantastic scenes were made by the traditional hariko 張子 technique,  in which paper maché  was realistically formed over the structure made out of bamboo and wood. It is said that Matsumoto was inspired by the figures which appeared in the book, “Wakan sansei zue 和漢三才図会” in the 14th volume. The dolls were so real that people were fascinated. Kuniyoshi visited there and made many different versions of the scene. Each strange figure is labeled with his country name: three in front right are named senkyuu landせんきう国; behind on the mountain with a stick and tree branches on his back, fukei landふけい国; an old man with a fish, mufuku landむふく国; the man with long legs in water, ashinaga landあしなが国; a man with long arms carried by the man with long legs, tenaga land,てなが国,  and  the man with a capこんらん国.

The title is decorated with an elephant, which was also exhibited and made by Takeda Kamekichi. Matsumoto gained a great success the year before in Osaka by exhibiting lifelike people from other countries. He was the first to make models of human internal organs upon an official request from the Medical Dept. of the forerunner of Tokyo University.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: ôban diptych
Publisher: Izutsuya Shôkichi
Literature: Salter, Japanese Popular Prints (2006), p. 35, fig. 25; Inagaki and Isao, Kuniyoshi no kyôga (1991), #111; Genshoku Ukiyo-e dai hyakka jiten 4 (1981), #304 (left sheet only); Ono, Misemono fûzoku zushi (1977), p. 113. See Andon 57, page 41. See British Museum collection.
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga