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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Dainagon Tsunenobu (大納言経信) from the series One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets (Hyakunin isshu no uchi - 百人一首之内)

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Dates: circa 1840 - 1842,created
Dimensions: 9.0 in,13.625 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Chōōrō Kuniyoshi ga
朝櫻樓国芳画
Publisher: Ebisu
(Marks U037 - seal 16-047)

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; British Museum; Manggha Centre of Japanese Art and Technology, Krakow; Yale University Art Gallery;

Physical description:

"This selection is from a large series of one hundred prints illustrating the well-known poetry anthology, the Hyakunin isshu (One hundred poems for one hundred poets), which was compiled in 1235 by the celebrated poet Fujiwara Teika (1162-1241). Although some view the anthology as a casual collection of poets and poems, most regard it as a careful selection of poetic styles and schools that was designed to educate students of poetry. The Hyakunin isshu has always been a popular subject and has appeared in different aspects of Japanese culture: it has even taken the form of a card game.

This print portrays the poet Dainagon Tsunenobu (1016-97) who is a distinguished statesman as well as a famous calligrapher, musician (viz. on the biwa) and a man of letters. A follower of the poet Sone no Yoshitada, Tsunenobu shifted the direction of Japanese poetry away from the expression of emotions and inner feelings towards the description of nature and of poetic fancy. The poem for which he is most recognised reads:

Yūzareba
Kado-da no inaba
Otazurete
Ashi no maro-ya ni
Aki kaze zo fuku

When the evening comes
From the rice leaves at my gate
Gentle knocks are heard:
And, into my round rush-hut,
Autumn's roaming breeze makes way

After Tsunenobu recites this poem about the autumn breeze, a frightening ghost appears and responds to his poem with one by the Chinese poet known in Japan as Hakuraten. Kuniyoshi's print illustrates the poet working in his study at night whilst an enormous hirsute ghost recites a poem outside his window.

[Although this print in the Lyon Collection is trimmed, it is noted that] Each print in this series is numbered in the margin and today 58 of the 100 have been documented. This print is incorrectly numbered 72; it should read 71.

Like many other sheets in this series, different versions of this particular print exist. One depicts a darkly coloured ghost with a white text on a darker background emanating from its mouth and bokashi (graded colour printing) at the top. A second edition shows a lightly coloured ghost with a white text against a dark ground... and a third edition has a lightly coloured ghost with a contrasting text. The chronological order of these three editions has yet to be fully established."

Quoted from: Heroes and Ghosts: Japanese Prints by Kuniyoshi 1797-1861 by Robert Schaap, p. 59 with a color reproduction.