Artist: Utagawa Kunisada II (二代歌川国貞)

Print: 'Bamboo River' (Takegawa - 竹川), #44 (四十四) from the series Lady Murasaki's Genji Cards (Murasaki Shikibu Genji karuta - 紫式部げんじかるた)

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Dates: created,1857
Dimensions: Overall dimensions
Inscription: Signed: Baichōrō Kunisada ga
Publisher: Tsutaya Kichizō (Marks 556 - seal 03-004)
Date seal: 11/1857
Censor seal: aratame

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Honolulu Museum of Art; National Diet Library; Staatsbibliothek Berlin - #48; Lyon Collection - another print from this series;Art and Design Library, Edinburgh ;

Physical description:

This print in the Lyon Collection is trimmed on all sides. If you click on the link to the Museum of Fine Arts copy which shows the decorative border which is meant to represent an image from an album laid down on decorative paper flecked with gold.


Part of the publisher's seal, the ivy leaf, seen within a red circle, appears prominently on the large wicker traveling box seen behind the kneeling woman. A quick glance through other prints from this series seems to indicate that this is the only example where the Tsutaya Kichizō logo appears prominently.


The series included 54 prints plus a contents sheet. This is listed only in Andreas Marks, Genji's World in Japanese Woodblock Prints, number 360.

Elsewhere Marks wrote: "Between 1859 and his death in 1865 Kunisada designed five triptych series based on A Country Genji. Other artists also took up the subject and designed their own series of fifty-four vertical ōban prints. Kunisada's pupil Kunisada II, for example, designed Murasaki Shikibu Genji karuta (Murasaki Shikibu's Genji cards) in 1 857-58 (Ansei 4.1-12)."


The curatorial files for the copy found in Edinburgh state: "A Japanese lady kneels at the feet of a shirabyoshi dancer, her arms open wide and gesturing. She is wearing a striped kimono and her hair is worn up and decorated with ornaments. The dancer wears a very ornate kimono with a floral design. The dancer wears a tall hat (tate eboshi) and is carrying a fan and a sword."


What I find curious is the title refers to a card matching game, karuta, while the image shown in the upper right corner is for the kai-awase shell-matching game with an accompanying Genji mon.