Utagawa Kuniyasu (歌川国安) (artist 1794 – 1832)
Parody of Zhu Wu: the Divine Strategist "Shinkigunshi Shubu no mitate" (神機軍師朱武の見立) from "Tsūzoku Suikoden Gōketsu Hyaku-hachi-nin no Hitori" (通俗水滸伝豪傑百八人之一個) The hundred and eight heroes of the Suikoden "Ōgiya uchi Hanaōgi" The courtesan Hana-Ogi of the Ogiya house (扇屋内 花扇)
1820 – 1825
9.96 in x 13.5 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print
Signed: Ippōsai Kuniyasu ga
Publisher: Kagaya Kichiemon (Marks 195 - seal 22-027)
Censor's seal: kiwame
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Mead Art Museum, Amherst College
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - mitate of Shi Jin, the Nine Dragoned from this set
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - mitate of Yan Qing from this set
Ritsumeikan University - another print from this series
Lyon Collection - preparatory drawing for this print
The curatorial files at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston note: "The series title [of this Kuniyasu print] and its cartouche are copied directly from the famous series by Kuniyoshi. Here, courtesans imitate the Chinese heroes."
In Japan the name Zhu Wu (Shinkigushi Shubu) was translated as Shōkozan. In Of Brigands and Bravery Inge Klompmakers points out that Shinkigushi Shubu figures in two prints in Kuniyoshi's series. In one he is wearing an elaborately decorated robe, which some scholars believe was an indication that this man was originally a silk dyer. The dramatic nature of his robe may have parallels in the gorgeously attired courtesan in the print in the Lyon Collection seen here.
Dressed this way, Shinkigushi Shubu is pointing a sword toward the sky forcing a demon to flee. This is a reference to his magical powers - according to Kuniyoshi - even though "His abilities in the art of witchcraft are not mentioned in the Shuihu zhuan..."
There is a curious difference between this print and the others in this 'series'. The title cartouches are all the same, but the differences are obvious. Even the publisher is the same. However, in the print in the Lyon Collection the beauty is not only the only example where one of the figures is sitting, is surrounded by elegant elegant objects in an elegant setting, but is also backed by a genuine landscape that recedes far into the distance. All of the other prints show an oiran standing in spare surroundings and with the cartouche in the upper left.
Why is this example so unlike the others. Perhaps two different series were planned while using the same specialized cartouche and hence the same theme of gorgeous women as stand-ins for Suikoden warriors. Or perhaps the extravagant nature of this print was never reproduced with any others. Most likely we will never know why this image seems so unique. But then again it is not always unheard of that one print in a series is a bit out of step with the rest. The best resolution would be to find just one other similar example, but until that time comes we will simply have to rely on our instincts as to the art historical nature of this beautiful, beautiful print.
Kagaya Kichiemon (加賀屋吉右衛門) (publisher)
beautiful women (bijin-ga - 美人画) (genre)
mitate-e (見立て絵) (genre)
Suikoden (水滸傳) (genre)