Ishikawa Toyonobu: Oversized keyblock of a courtesan smoking (Sold)

  • Sold.

Artist: Ishikawa Toyonobu
Title: Oversized keyblock of a courtesan smoking
Date: Meiji Period (?); original done ca. 1740s

Extremely scarce keyblock for an oversized print showing a courtesan blowing smoke into the air. She holds a long pipe in her right hand, and sits next to a New Year’s decoration. Her hair ornaments are tortoiseshell, another indication that she is of high rank. Her robe features designs of water, waterwheels, a (treasure?) purse and flowers. This work most likely dates from the Meiji Period, when there were still carvers capable of carving this work, which features a flowing, dynamic lines, yet with a precise hairline with each hair delineated individually. There was also already at that time customer demand for earlier ukiyo-e reprints. I could find neither an original work nor a Meiji nor later reproduction of this design as a finished print. The wood is surprisingly well-preserved, with almost no warping or wormage damage, although the block itself is not very thick. The kento markings for alignment of the paper are extant on the left and bottom A typewritten note has been affixed to the back, with a story pertaining to the block itself. It is only partially extant, but states that this keyblock was discovered by Arthur Ficke in Tokyo. Ficke (1883-1945) was an early proponent and collector of Japanese prints, and wrote the influential book “Chats on Japanese Prints” in 1917. The back of the work has been carved to feature only a 5mm-wide framing element near the edge of the block. The center square has been left uncut. Blocks are among the rarest of all the surviving elements of ukiyo-e production. Blocks were often planed down and recarved, and during difficult times in Japan were most likely burned as fuel or turned into some useful part of a structure in some way. Edo Period blocks are incredibly scarce. Meiji blocks sometimes surface, but they are usually for unexciting parts of pedestrian designs. If this work really was collected in the Meiji Period, there is a slim chance that this might be an original block from the 1700s. The title is written in Chinese characters: 5 characters on each line.The first line reads: SAIWAINI INKOO NO TASUKEO KOU. (Do your best and ask for help of others). The second line reads: NANNZO OMON BAKARU MAYU O HIRAKAZARU KOTO-O (Then you will be able to catch good fortune.) These lines means: You don’t have to worry. Open your eyes and look into the future. Signed: Ishikawa Shuuha Toyonobu zu These lines is a part of 4 line saying, for instance, used for a fortune-telling paper strip which is sold at a shrine. The woman is smoking with a kiseru pipe and relaxing. Its smoke makes a nice pattern

Condition: Excellent condition overall
Dimensions: 50 x 33 cm
Signature: Tanjôdô Ishikawa Shûha Toyonobu zu