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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Print: Cherry blossoms at night with Mitsuuji
and two bijin from a Rustic Genji theme
[Nise Murasaki inaka Genji - 偐紫田舎源氏] -

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Dates: circa 1847 - 1850,created
Dimensions: 30.0 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print; ōban triptych
Inscription:

Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊國画)
Publisher: Ebisuya Shōshichi (Marks 039 - seal 26-007)
Censor: Mera and Murata

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Waseda University;

Physical description:

The male character in the center, probably Mitsuuji, the rustic Genji, is easily identifiable by his 'shrimp's-tail' hair style. The woman in the right-hand panel is holding his sword by wrapping a purple cloth around it and, hence, not touching it directly. That makes this a repetitive motif.

This occurs in another 'Rustic Genji' triptych in the Lyon Collection as well. In that case, there are three full figures in a garden with cherry blossoms in bloom there, too.

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What is with that bizarre shrimp's tail hairstyle?

When Kunisada first proposed to give the main character of 'the Rustic Genji' story a shrimp's tail hairstyle, even Tanehiko, the author of this new gōkan was a bit taken aback. But, trusting his friend, one of the greatest artists of his day, this style not only eventually grew on him, but became a bit of a rage for the reading public.

The book was so successful that Tanehiko himself states in the preface to the 38th volume, "...the general's topknot of Mitsuuji's hair in this novel, divided in two at the end like a shrimp's tail, is a convention of the Kameido artist, [i.e. Kunisada I]. At first it seemed a strange hairstyle even to me, but we have now become so used to seeing it that it no longer seems strange, as it is reproduced on ema, hagoita, oshie or on similar things, and on offerings made to temples on special occasions when images of Buddha are displayed, on lanterns which are hanging in the Yoshiwara, or on biscuits, not to mention on fans...
Quoted from: Essays on Japanese Art Presented to Jack Hillier, an essay by Eiko Kondo called 'Inaka Genji Series', p. 78.

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This triptych is listed but not illustrated in Andreas Marks Genji's World in Japanese Woodblock Prints. It appears at G#169.