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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ogura Imitations Of The Hundred Poets - Ukiyo-e

You know... it's been quite rare for me to find a pretty good bit of information about the ukiyo-e I own. Often I just have the name of the artist and an approximate date and that's it.

Part of the problem is that since I bought these pieces of art 20 years ago, I have moved seven times. As such, some of that information has either gone missing, or has been misplaced - and by that, I don't mean lost... I mean misplaced... with data sitting with the wrong piece of art.

In the image above, I have been able to, over the past four days or so, paste together a whole lot of information on the art piece.

I have been going over scores of websites looking for art that resembles my small collection of 21-pieces of ukiyo-e, and then have tried to confirm things by comparing artist signatures... it's been exhausting... and sometimes it leaves me to wonder if I am the only person in the world to own some of these pieces.

Of course, that's just ego. More than likely I can't find my art in the catalogs because it either hasn't gone up for sale or auction, or the private collectors haven't seen fit to place images on the Internet, or, as I have discovered... art that is contained within an art dealer's website doesn't necessarily show up in Google Image searches. You kind of have to find an art dealer and then search their historical collections one by one. 

It's time consuming.

Having said that, I have had success on two pieces of ukiyo-e art - two pieces I wasn't originally searching for at that time. Better lucky than smart, I suppose.

The ukiyo-e image above is from the famous series: Ogura nazorae Hyakunin isshu (Ogura imitations of the Hundred Poets), and was drawn by famed ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797 - 1861), but signed as Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga.

It was published by Ibaya Senzaburoh, with a censor seal by Muramatsu in a best guess date of 1845, depending on what revered source I choose to follow (It could also be anywhere between 1845-48). The censor seal gives us a better clue on the actual publication date. (More on the censor in my blog tomorrow).

Prepared in the Oban style, the piece is 36.3 x 24.5 centimeters (height x width) or 14-5/16 x 9-5/8 inches.

This ukiyo-e is image number 4 of the lengthy series, and in the upper left quadrant, it contains a waka, a five-lined poem (with 31 syllables, broken down in in a 5-7-5-7-7) . The poem was written by the famed Japanese poet Yamabe no Akahito who lived during the Nara period born in 700 AD, and dying in 736AD. He is one of the thirty-six Poetry Immortals (三十六歌仙, Sanjūrokkasen) who are a group of Japanese poets of the Nara, Asuka and Heian periods selected by Fujiwara no Kintō as the best Japanese poets of the era.

The poem as it is written on the ukiyo-e:

The poem in Japanese:
Taga no Ura ni
Uchi idete mireba
Shirotae no
Fuji no takane ni
Yuki wa furi tsutsu

English translation:
When I take the path
To Tago's coast, I see
Perfect whiteness laid
On Mount Fuji's lofty peak
By the drift of falling snow

In the image, we see two ladies at Yushima Shrine receiving a gift box containing snow. A young girl holds a New Year's decoration above a married woman's head. 

It's so much more interesting to me now that I have background on the image.

I had bought it because I liked the two styles of kimono, and I always figured the women were doing something with rice. And now I know.

Andrew Joseph

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