Toyokuni I: Two Courtesan Holding Hands in Front of a Publisher's Shop
Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I 豊国 (1769-1825)
Title: Two Courtesan Holding Hands in Front of a Publisher's Shop
Date: ca. 1790s
Two courtesans hold hands as they stroll in front of the shop of the Publisher Izumi-ya Ichibei (as the large hanging lantern on the left indicates 泉市.) The lantern reads in large letters: mon ten-oo？門天王, while the smaller script reads: Shiba Shinmei-mae Izumi-Ichi芝神明前 泉市.
Behind them is a small boy carrying a furoshiki-wrapped package on his shoulder and a branch of lucky charms. The group must be returning from a visit to Shiba Shinmei Shrine, which was very popular as Ise Shrine in Edo. It was located between Edo town and Shinagawa Station on the Tokaido, therefore travelers frequented it for praying before and after their trips. It was also a busy area, because many shops lined the entry on both sides of street in the Shrine property.
The shop of Izumi-ya Ichibei I (with his artist name Izumi-Ichi ) moved in this area in the 1780s and served as an official publisher for the Edo Bakufu as well as for the publication of Buddhist materials. In October of 1790 he joined the consortium of those who published and sold entertaining publications by authors/artists in the area (Jiho-toiya 地本問屋), later becoming a publisher of Ukiyo-e. From 1794 to 1796 he published Toyokuni’s series of Kabuki actors “Portraits of Kabuki Actors on Stage 役者舞台之姿絵” and established the young Toyokuni who lived in the neighborhood of the shrine as a prominent Kabuki Ukiyo-e artist. His shop was succeeded by eight generations until the Meiji Period.
The women look over their shoulders, their attention drawn by perhaps a handsome admirer. They are drawn in Toyokuni’s best early style, done in the 1790s, at the same time as Utamaro’s beauties. Although works from the period that are parts of larger compositions can stand well on their own, this work is most likely part of a diptych or triptych, although no other examples have been found.
Condition: Very good impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: 33 x 22.9 cm
Publisher: Izumiya Ichibei
Signature: Toyokuni ga