A Brief History of Prints of Actors Part 2: 1742-1769

From the Kanpō period (寛保, 1741-1743), and more exactly from the year 1742, prints with two to three colours printed from blocks begin to appear, the so-called benizurie (紅摺絵), mostly in a colour scheme identical to benie and primarily in the hosoban format. However, it is only from 1744 that these would account for most of the print production, and it is only from about 1750 that they completely supersede urushie, although we can even find a few exceptions as late as 1760. Their designers are Ishikawa Toyonobu (石川豊信 act 1743-59), Torii Kiyomitsu (鳥居清満 act 1745-77), Torii Kiyohiro (鳥居清廣 act 1752-68), and Torii Kiyotsune (鳥居清経 act 1757-78), some of them even adopting the novel technique of full colour printing, nishikie (錦絵), from 1764.

Torii Kiyomitsu: The actor Ichikawa Raizō as Minamoto no Yoshitsune, XI/1761 Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

Looking then at prints issued in the period from 1742 to 1769, the heyday of benizurie prints, we notice quite a shift. This period comes to an end when the newly developed full colour prints, nishikie, become the overall standard. Although we can notice a few designers of the Torii-tradition who still as late as 1778 try to serve their traditional clientele with benizurie prints, in the end they too have to submit to innovation.

PeriodWhatIIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIPrints
1697 1760tane urushie42% 9%   5%   29%99.5%
1742 1769benizurie27%9%9% 5% 6%   35%100%

What we see in the benizurie days is that most prints of actors in role are associated with performances in the eleventh month, 35%, those associated with the New Year’s performances being second with only 27%, indeed a total reversal from the preceding period, as if the notion of the ‘kabuki year’ is now being accepted much more widely. In the third place are prints associated with performances in the second and third months, both accounting for 9%. The fourth place is for prints after performances in the seventh month, 6%, followed by those in the fifth month, 5%.

Ishikawa Toyonobu: The actors Nakamura Kiyosaburō as Matsuyama and Ichimura Kamezō as Wanya Kyūbei, XI/1749 Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

Yet, even with only five remaining months, and not seven as before, accounting for one to three percent of the prints of actors only, we still must really wonder how designers of prints in much of the eighteenth century could possibly make a living. For most of the print buying audience, if we can even speak of that in this period, it seems to have sufficed to just buy something like one print every year, either after the kaomise performances of the eleventh month, or after the New Year’s performances. And in case they might have forgotten the name of the actor and the role he played, these are invariably printed alongside the figures. Only very few slightly more passionate kabuki lovers, less than 30% in the earlier period it seems, and still less than 40% in this second period, seem to have been buying one or two more prints of actors in role.

We should also take into consideration that it was, until the 1760s, almost impossible to gain some extra income from making book illustrations or even design picture books, ehon (絵本, of course, Moronobu 菱川師宣 and Jihei 杉村治兵衛 are exceptions in Edo). Okumura Toshinobu is known for just one book, as are Torii Kiyonobu II and Torii Kiyohiro. Nishimura Shigenaga 西村重長 is known for three books, Torii Kiyomasu II for twelve (in a period of 48 years of activity), and Torii Kiyoshige 鳥居清重 for sixteen (in 35 years of activity). If we also include books of erotic content, which the Japanese literature tries to ignore altogether, Torii Kiyonobu I is known for 6 books, five of which are of erotic content, Okumura Masanobu for 36 books, 23 of which are of erotic content, and Ishikawa Toyonobu for 13 books, all of erotic content. However, it is only from the 1760s that Torii Kiyomitsu and Torii Kiyotsune can finally make a living by illustrating 71 and 200 popular novels respectively, in addition to the prints they designed, a totally new development of the time.

Torii Kiyomitsu: The actors Ichimura Uzaemon IX as Nagoya Sanza and Ichimura Kamezō II, XI/1766 Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago

Indeed, it is only from the 1760s that we find ourselves in a society where what we generally believed to be the ‘Floating World’ can finally, and only then, begin to develop. Until then, popular novels don’t get “popular” thanks to their illustrations or illustrators. And it would seem that, until then, only very few designers of prints could have made a living, or survive by just designing prints. Of course, we have no idea of the survival rate of prints in the eighteenth century, but even when we consider a survival rate of one third or one fourth, how, for example, could Torii Kiyotsune possibly have made a living for 21 years on a total of 3 x 18 = 54, or maybe 4 x 18 = 72 print designs, if only thanks to his illustrations to 200 popular novels? Or if we just take the 149 prints of actors listed by Mutō as a base, should we consider him as someone trying to make a living on the basis of 3 x 149 = 447 or 4 x 149 = 596 – which still comes down to not more than an annual production of 21 or 28 designs, sort of one every other week? Should we consequently consider most of these designers as gifted amateurs with some other regular income to make a living and support their family and occasionally maybe even running a part-time atelier with pupils? Anyway, they are eshi 絵師 or maybe gakō 画工, draughtsmen, certainly belonging to the social class of craftsmen.

Naturally, the various heads of the Torii tradition enjoyed a regular income from painting the posters of the Edo kabuki theatres, which brought them from Osaka to Edo to begin with, and this would go for Torii Kiyonobu (1664-1729), Torii Kiyonobu II (1706-1763), for Torii Kiyomitsu (1735-1785), and maybe also for Torii Kiyonaga (鳥居清長 1752-1815). Moreover, as the heads of the Torii tradition, they must have been able to make a living and train the next generation of Torii designers. The one other exception would be Okumura Masanobu who, as the ’inventor of perspective prints, ukie’ (浮繪根元), and much more, also acted as a real innovative publisher.

Of course, as we know, certainly also from Higuchi’s work, these artists justly considered themselves as craftsmen and also designed prints of fashionable women, as well as other fashionable images. Foremost in this respect are Nishimura Shigenaga (act 1719-1754), with only 6 prints of actors in role out of a total of 52 prints listed in Higuchi, that is 11%, and the real versatile talent Okumura Masanobu, with only 32 prints of actors out of the 111 works listed with Higuchi, or 28%. In the case of both Ishikawa Toyonobu with 22 prints of actors out of 58 prints listed in Higuchi (Mutō lists 90 prints of actors), and Torii Kiyohiro with 16 prints of actors out of 37 (Mutō lists 145), we are still in the less than 50% range with 38 and 43% respectively. However, for most other artists, prints of actors in role seem to have been their primary production, and consequently we must indeed wonder how they possibly made a living. For Nishimura Shigenobu (西村重信 act 1722-1747) with 16 prints of actors out of a total of 27 listed in Higuchi (Mutō lists 46), this makes up for 60% of his oeuvre. Both Torii Kiyomasu I, Okumura Toshinobu, and Torii Kiyomitsu make prints of actors to 65% of their output, Kiyomasu with 39 prints out of 60, Toshinobu with 34 out of 52, and Kiyomitsu with 47 out of the 72 designs listed in Higuchi. Torii Kiyotsune, gets to 77% with 14 prints of actors out of 18, and both Torii Kiyonobu I and Torii Kiyomasu II not really surprisingly reach 79%, Kiyonobu with 62 prints of actors out of 78 designs, and Kiyomasu with at least 60 of the 76 designs by him listed in Higuchi. With Torii Kiyoshige (act 1721-1763) and Torii Kiyonobu II we get to the 95% range, with Kiyoshige being listed in Higuchi with 19 designs of actors out of a total of 20 designs, and Kiyonobu with 54 out of 57.

Next time A Brief History of Prints of Actors, Part 3A: 1764-1796, or maybe just an Intermezzo: Don’t Look Back

Japanese Prints of Actors – A Brief History Part 1: 1697-1760

It is really fascinating to have a closer look at what came to be called ‘actor prints’ from late Meiji, when the Japanese also started to demonstrate some real interest in Japanese woodblock prints and then coined the term yakushae (役者絵). At the time when these were made, they were simply called ‘pictures of figures,’ sugatae (姿繪), or also ‘pictures of the appearances of actors,’ yakusha no sugatae (役者の姿繪) in order to distinguish them from what we now know as ‘prints of beauties,’ bijinga (美人画), again a term only coined in the Meiji period for prints that had simply been known as ‘pictures of figures,’ sugatae, at the time, as in Seirō bijin awase sugata kagami, Mirror of Pictures of the Fair Ladies of the Green Houses (青楼美人合姿鑑), the 1776 book by Shunshō and Shigemasa.

Indeed, thanks to some quite comprehensive and reliable overviews of prints of actors, we can now discern some interesting shifts of interest that especially give us a better insight in the practices of print production. Until recently, we could probably just avail ourselves of Higuchi Hiroshi’s Shoki ukiyoe kaisetsu (樋口弘『初期浮世絵解説』) of 1977, or even, earlier still, of Helen Gunsaulus’ The Clarence Buckingham collection of Japanese prints: The Primitives, Chicago 1955. But now there is also Mutō Junko’s Shoki ukiyoe to kabuki (武藤純子『初期浮世絵と歌舞伎』) of 2005 as probably the best source available at the moment.

Torii Kiyonobu II, The actor Ichikawa Danjūrō II in the role of Soga no Jūrō in a performance in I/1733 Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago 1939.2148

Making a chronological inventory of all prints that Mutō lists, and then even splitting them up according to the months when they were issued, we find that most such prints portraying actors in role in the period from 1697 to the mid 1740s can be assigned to the New Year’s performances in the first month. They make up for 42% of the total production, suggesting that it was then some kind of general practice to start the new year buying one’s first (and only?) actor print. Next come those that can be identified with the kaomise (顔見) performances of the eleventh month, the opening of the new kabuki season, 29%, a similar sort of moment for those rather adhering to the official beginning of the kabuki-year. Then follow prints that are associated with performances in the third month, 9%, and with those of the seventh month, 5%. The remaining seven months – there are no performances in the twelfth month – all account for less than 5%, and for the sake of clarity, I ignore them here.

MonthsWhatIIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIPrints
1697 1760tane urushie42%  9%       5%     29%99.5%
Torii Kiyomasu, The actor Fujimura Handayū in the role of Ōiso no Tora, I/1715 Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago 1925.1732

The period that I selected here is not a haphazard one, it covers the early period of prints in line only, sumizurie (墨摺絵), mostly until 1715 (?), and, from 1698-1725, the so-called tane (丹絵) with their characteristic hand colouring in a brilliant cinnabar orange-vermillion with green and yellow, as well as, from 1714-49, the rather predominant urushie (漆絵), prints with a hand-applied black mixed with glue to resemble lacquer, urushi (漆), sometimes even finished with powdered brass in some areas, and, from 1716-49 the less common benie (紅絵), prints hand-coloured with a strong pinkish red pigment and green or yellow. This is also the period of prints in various different formats – a real standardization only dates from 1772 – ranging from very large sheets (ōōban 大大判, falling in the range from 594 to 543 x 332 to 312), or large sheets (ōban 大判, of 453-380 x 300-270), or medium sheets (chūban 中判, of 300 x 215), and, from 1717, the smaller hosoban 細判 of 350-285 x 216-158 that will then soon really become predominant.

These prints were designed by artists such as Torii Kiyonobu (鳥居清信 act 1696-1724), Torii Kiyomasu (鳥居清倍 act 1697-1720), as well as, during part of their careers, by Okumura Masanobu (奥村正信 act 1705-56), Okumura Toshinobu (奥村俊信 act 1717-49), Okumura Toshinobu (奥村利信 act 1717-49), Torii Kiyomasu II (二代鳥居清倍 act 1718-66), and Torii Kiyonobu II (二代鳥居清信 act 1725-61).

Next: Part 2: 1742-1769

Where Would One Buy a Netsuke in Edo: Check the Yellow Pages

Now that we have seen the shopping guides for Osaka and Kyoto, such a guide for Edo, Shopping Yourself in Edo, Edo kaimono hitori annai (江戸買物獨案内, 3 vols) of 1824, was actually, quite surprisingly, published by the Osaka firm of Nakagawa Gorōemon (中川五郎兵衛門) with Yamashiroya Sahei (山城屋佐兵衛), Okadaya Kashichi (岡田屋嘉七), Kuwamura Hanzō (桑村半藏) and Takegawa Fujibei (竹川藤兵衛) of Edo, and Kawanami Shirōbei (河南四郎兵衛) and Suzuya Yasubei (鈴屋安兵衛) of Kyoto, and Yanagiwara Kihei (柳原喜兵衛), Morimoto Tasuke (森本太助) and Nakagawa Gorōbei (中川五郎兵衛) of Osaka. It would seem that the Osaka publisher also acted as the compiler of the guide under the name of Nakagawa Hōsandō (中川芳山堂). And would he be the same as Nakagawa Gohei (中川五兵衛) whom we saw as the publisher of the Osaka shopping guide? All in all, the Edo guide lists 2622 shops, 151 of these are restaurants, all listed in the third volume. Anyway Nakagawa undoubtedly also targeted the Edo market, asking Ōta Nanpo (大田南畝, 1749-1823) to write a foreword, dated 1822, and asking Hokusai to contribute some illustrations (that apparently until now went unnoticed by all Hokusai researchers, so I’ll come back to these sometime soon).

A samurai spotting a toad on his shoulder, signed Takamasa 貴正 (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

Here we find, under the letter ‘ne,’ two shops explicitly selling netsuke: Yamagataya Sukejirō (山形屋助次郎) at Tōri Shiochō (通塩町), also advertizing a stock of leather pouches (?, 革提) and all kinds of ojime, and Fujishima Matsugorō (藤島松五郎) at Suwachō in Asakusa (浅草諏訪町), who is otherwise a woodcarving atelier making netsuke and ojime as well as pipecases, kiseruzutsu (煙管筒). According to this guide, Hiroseya Kashichi (廣瀬屋嘉七) of the Guild of Paper Tobacco Pouches (紙煙草入問屋) – which we don’t have in Kyoto or Osaka — at Bakurochō sanchōme (馬喰町三丁目), is also selling netsuke and ojime (緒留), and pouches, of course, even all kinds of leather pouches (?), as well as paper handkerchiefs (did we have paper handkerchiefs by then? remember, we are in 1824), and kanamono (金物, probably small knives, kozuka, razors, scissors, and the like). Misuya Zenbei (三栖屋善兵衛) of Ōtenmachōdōri Hatagochō (大傳馬町通旅篭町) sells all kinds of netsuke and ojime, as well as tobacco pouches made of both Kyoto and Ise fabrics. But unlike the shopping guides of Osaka and Kyoto, none of the forty haberdashers in this shopping guide — and there must have been many many more in this largest city of the world — claims to also sell netsuke, they do mention selling combs, ornamental hairpins of both the kōgai and kanzashi types, and some even ivory, but none of them specifically mentions netsuke. And this also goes for the forty dealers of tortoise, bekkō (鼈甲), most of these also working in ivory, but none of them mentions that they also make netsuke.

A Shishi lion with its paws on a jewel (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

Anyway, we may well conclude that there were, indeed, a few shops with an atelier where people were carving netsuke in various materials. Maybe most artisans engaged in netsuke carving would occasionally also sell their works through these shops, but mostly, it seems, they would try and make arrangements with the ubiquitous haberdashers, komamonoya, and this was how they found buyers for their works and where people wanting to buy a netsuke, or just another netsuke so they might fit these with another inrō or tobacco pouch would go. And for some Kokusai 谷齋 netsuke you would probably go and try one of the Asakusa haberdashers.

Where Would One Buy a Netsuke in Kyoto: Check the Yellow Pages

Moving from Osaka to Kyoto, another such guide is Shopping by Yourself in Kyoto, Kyōto kaimono hitori annai (京都買物獨案内) of 1831, published by Shimizuya Jihei (清水屋次兵衛) of Kyoto with his colleagues Choya Kanbei (著屋勘兵衛) and Izōya Saemon (伊像屋佐右衛門), also of Kyoto, and with Kawachiya Kihei (河内屋喜兵衛) and Harimaya Gorōbei (播磨屋五郎兵衛) of Osaka and Yamashiroya Sahei (山城屋佐兵衛) of Edo. Under the letter ‘so’ we find ‘ivory,’ zōge (象牙), starting with a large advert of Iseya Zenbei (伊勢屋善兵衛) at Teramachi Takatsuji (寺町高辻上ル), a Wholesaler of Ivory and All Kinds of Materials, Zōgerui toiya (象牙類問屋), who has netsuke, offering plectra (for playing the shamisen or the biwa-lute), various white silken kesa (priest’s stoles?), the jiku for mounters of paintings (the knobs on the roller), plectra for the koto, spinning tops, netsuke, indeed, chopsticks, tea spoons, incense boxes, combs and ornamental hairpins of both the kōgai (笄) and the kanzashi (簪) types [for ills see my earlier blog on netsuke in Osaka], all made of water buffalo, whale, elephant, bone, or horn, as well as of porcelain, stone, combs that one disposes of (?), cloisonné enamel, shells, of Chinese (or just outlandish) and Japanese woods, lathe work, peony, small runners for sugoroku boards, and stone, and various articles. Then there is Yorozuya Shōsuke (萬屋庄助) at the Yanagi horse riding ground by the Manju Temple (萬壽寺柳馬場), a member of the Guild of Ivory and Tortoise Importers (象牙鼈甲仕入問屋), also running a workshop, and offering various netsuke made of Chinese (or just foreign) woods and all kinds of ivory jiku for mounters of paintings (see above). And just specializing in netsuke carvings there is Hōgaku (宝樂), a master netsuke carver, netsuke horimonoshi (根付彫物師) at Ogawadōri Ebisugawa (小川通夷川上ル).

The Japanese wife of a Dutchman on Deshima holding a shawn and having a child on her back, signed Yoshitomo 吉友 (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

Among the haberdashers, komamonoya (小間物屋), we find Fujiya Sōbei (藤屋惣兵衛) at Rokkakujichō (六角寺町西へ入) as a shoshiki komamonoya (諸色小間物屋), that is a ‘haberdasher of commodities,’ apparently a sub-group among haberdashers, selling netsuke and various sagemono (提物, that is various items worn from the sash, which may be as varied as tobacco pouches, pipe holders, inrō, purses, gourds to contain liquids or also medicine, and scoops for drinking water), and items in tortoise and ivory, and combs and ornamental hairpins of the kōgai type (笄). Sawaya Kyūbei (佐和屋久兵衛) at Matsubara Tomikomichi (松原冨小路東へ入) offers netsuke and all kinds of hardware (kanamono 金物, probably small knives, kozuka, razors, scissors, and the like), ornamental hairpins of the kanzashi type, bags and pouches (fukuromono 袋物), and xx? (華提). And Komatsuya Mohei (小松屋茂兵衛) at Teramachi Matsubara (寺町松原下町) offers netsuke in addition to compasses (磁石) and various kinds of older hardware (?, 前金物類). And then there are another 199 haberdashers who just fail to specify whether they are also dealing in netsuke, among whom there is at least some Karakiya Shichibei (唐木屋七兵衛, suggesting something with foreign kinds of wood), and some Zōgeya Hanbei (象牙屋半兵衛, suggesting something with ivory). But hardly any of these shops selling netsuke is specific about whether they have ivory or wooden netsuke, and maybe they just have a good selection of both, the ivory ones undoubtedly being more costly than most common woods, certainly when these are not ‘foreign woods, karaki.’ And so far, just one shop-owner claims to sell netsuke made by a known carver. Isn’t that an issue at the time, or would you simply know that you should be here for your Tomotada ox and with that shop for an Okatomo goat? The connoisseurs, I mean.

A fisherman on the back of a huge blow fish, fugu, signed Masatomo 正友(Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

A later edition of this Kyoto shopping guide is published in 1851 by the same Shimizuya Jihei (清水屋次兵衛) of Kyoto with his colleagues Shimizuya Kanbei (清水屋勘兵衛), Yoshinoya Kanbei (吉野屋勘兵衛) and Hiranoya Mohei (平野屋茂兵衛) also of Kyoto, and with Kawachiya Kihei (河内屋喜兵衛) and Harimaya Gorōbei (播磨屋五郎兵衛) of Osaka, and again with Yamashiroya Sahei (山城屋佐兵衛) of Edo. Here we find the Netsuke shop of Kaneya Ihei (金屋伊兵衛) at Tomikomichi Shijō (冨小路四条下る) with a stock of netsuke (根付仕入所) in ivory, Chinese, that is foreign woods, and Japanese woods, finally even mentioning the name of his netsuke carver: Matsui Masamitsu (松井正光). Could he be the Masamitsu listed as 1435 by Davey: ‘One recorded. Wood. Mask of Okame. Early 19th century.’ Or would he rather be one of the two Masamitsus listed in Ueda, nos. 219 and 220. The second died in 1902 at the age of over 50, so he was born around the late 1840s, making it quite unlikely that he was working with Kaneya in 1851. The first Masamitsu was actually ‘Ejima Kōtarō (江島幸太郎), from Takada in Echigo Province, a pupil of Ishikura Masayoshi (石倉正義 [also from Takada, Echigo, who died in 1848]) who adopted him as his son. He then returned to Echigo and died in 1909 at the age of circa 73.’ Not impossible, being born in 1836, but not really convincing.

Among the haberdashers, there is Naraya Yasubei (奈良屋安兵衛) at Teramachi Shijō (寺町四条下) selling all kinds of netsuke and ojime (緒メ), purses (紙入), tobacco pouches (煙艸入) and hardware (金物). And the Kyūmondō of Shimizuya Jihei (九文堂清水屋次兵衛) at Tomikomichi Shijō (冨小路四条下ル町) sells netsuke, and also dolls, the stones for the board game of shōgi (将棊駒), small picture books (小繪本), x?, and all kinds of kanamono (金物).

Obviously, there are plenty of shops where you might try and find a netsuke that you liked, and you wouldn’t have to ask where such or so school netsuke carver was having his studio. You might just as well try any haberdasher in the city. As far as I am aware, nobody in the vast literature on netsuke ever discussed how and where these could be bought, and for me, as an art historian, how the art market works is a primary interest. Next week we’ll be looking at the Edo market of netsuke.

Where Would One Buy a Netsuke in Osaka: Check the Yellow Pages

The various lists of netsuke carvers in, for example, Ueda Reikichi’s Netsuke no kenkyū of 1954 (上田令吉『根附之研究』大阪:前田大文館, the copy I have, listing 1307 names), or also Neil Davey’s Netsuke of 1974 (listing 3425 names), might well suggest that large numbers of individuals – admittedly over a longer period of time – made a living carving netsuke, now even being referred to as ‘artists.’ But when one in those days would like to buy a Tomotada (友忠) ox or a goat by Okatomo (岡友), how would you know how to get one, or even know where the man lived – this is the Edo Period, long before the internet and smartphones. Another problem is in the epithet ‘so and so school,’ as if there were such a ‘school’ where aspiring carvers would enrol to become a ‘so or so school netsuke carver.’ And how could you find these schools if you wanted to buy some ‘so or so school’ netsuke? And what would you do when you live in Osaka, where there is apparently no ‘Osaka school’ of netsuke carvers?

A reclining ox, signed Tomotada 友忠 (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

Don’t despair, no problem, also in Osaka there are numerous shops specializing in various products from Edo, or having large selections of Setomono, a term covering all kinds of porcelains and pottery from all over the country, which you would also find in Kyoto and Edo. Then there are shops with a large array of local products, such as cotton from Kawachi Province and Shikoku Island, dolls from Fushimi, medicines from China and Holland, or from Hizen, suggesting Dutch medicines imported through Nagasaki, and both Chinese and Dutch pairs of glasses, various qualities of paper from the provinces of Echizen, Mino, and Tango, as well as paper, ink, brushes and incense from China, soy sauce from Bizen, various products from Matsumae, the northernmost tip of Honshū, as well as ginned cotton (繰綿), ink, brushes and ink stones old and new, miso paste, saddlery (馬具), teas, and much more from all over Japan. Even woodblock prints from Edo (江戸錦繪) and popular novels were being offered by Sumiya Kanshichi (炭屋勘七) at Matsubaradōri (松原通) in Kyoto, who otherwise held a large stock of Chinese mirrors and strings for the koto and the shamisen. And umbrellas sold in Edo were mostly imported from Kyoto (下リ). Indeed, there was no internet in the Edo Period, but they were certainly the so-called pre-modern era, well-equipped with good and up-to-date shopping guides as the equivalent of our already extinct yellow pages. Anyway, no fear of being deprived of anything you could imagine.

From such shopping guides, we can get a better idea about the market procedures, even for netsuke. Although some netsuke carvers may have run an atelier with a number of students catering to some audience in the various cities, such would have been quite exceptional, I would say. It might well be that we are rather mostly dealing with netsuke carvers working with one or preferably several shops that would sell their works on the basis of some commission. That there are indeed such shops will be obvious from, for example, the Guide for Shopping Yourself in Osaka, Shonin kaimono hitori annai (商人買物獨案内) published in 2 parts in 1824-1831 by Yanagihara Kihei (柳原木兵衛), Morimoto Tasuke (森本太助) and Nakagawa Gohei (中川五兵衛) of Osaka, together with Enya Yasubei (鉛屋安兵衛) of Kyoto and Suharaya Mohei (須原屋茂兵衛) of Edo. Under the letter ‘ne’ it lists just one netsuke maker: the Celebrity Netsuke Carving Studio of Zōgeya Chōbei, Meika netsuke saikudokoro (名家根付細工所象牙屋長兵衛), located at the Toriyachō by Bingochō (鳥屋町備後町南へ入). But we have a much better chance among the many haberdashers (essentially komamonoya 小間物屋). The shop of Kikuya Ihei (キク屋伊兵衛) at Sakaisuji minami Honchō (堺節南本町) advertises that it has netsuke, as well as all sorts of combs and ornamental hairpins both of the kōgai (笄) and of the kanzashi (簪) types (see the ill. below). The ‘ivory,’ zōge in the names of two other commodities haberdashers of the Komamono shoshiki toiya (小間物諸色問屋) guild, going by the names of Zōgeya Jirōbei (象牙屋治郎兵衛) at Sakaisuji Hakurōchō (堺節搏労町) and Zōgeya Yasubei (象牙屋安兵衛) at Sakaisuji minami Kyūtarōchō (堺節南久太郎町南へ入) would make it quite likely that they would also sell netsuke, I would say. Another haberdasher named Zōgeya Heizō (象牙屋平蔵) at Sakaisuji Junkeimachi (堺節順慶町北へ入) mentions that he is selling all sorts of combs and ornamental hairpins of both the kōgai (笄) and the kanzashi (簪) types, as well as netsuke, where it is probably understood that these are ivory for whom can afford these. And Tatsumiya Kaemon (辰巳屋加右衛門) at Shinsaibashi minami itchōme (心斎橋南一丁目) specifies that, in addition to netsuke, he also sells tobacco pouches, hardware (kanamono金物, probably small knives, kozuka, razors, scissors, and the like), and sagemono (提物, that is various items worn from the sash, which may be as varied as tobacco pouches, pipe holders, inrō, purses, gourds to contain liquids or also medicine, and scoops for drinking water). Ōtsuya Kyūbei (大津屋久兵衛) of Nagabori Shinsaibashi kitakō (長掘心斎橋北浩) also has netsuke and tobacco pouches, but states that he is specialized in ornamental hairpins of the kanzashi type and pipes. Then there is the shop of Echigoya Tōsuke (越後屋藤助), a haberdasher at Kōraibashi itchōme (高麗橋一丁目), actually specialized in bags and pouches, fukuromono (袋物), but also selling tortoise ornamental hairpins, kōgai, as well as water buffalo and ivory hairpins, again kōgai, so why not also netsuke?

A Kaki fruit and a snail on its branch Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

And then there are still some thirty other haberdashers in this shopping guide that have tobacco pouches, various sagemono and various types of hairpins, but they just don’t explicitly advertise that they are also selling netsuke. Maybe it was well-known that you could just try any of the countless haberdashers if you wished to buy a netsuke and see whether they had any nice, new, or attractive model. Or just one really en vogue, if you would be looking for one that was like the talk of the town. After all, a figurative netsuke maybe best compares to a man’s necktie – even simple stripes may tell something about the wearer. As for the five Ateliers Working in Ivory, Zōge saikudokoro (象牙細工所), none of them advertizes that they also make netsuke, just combs, ornamental hairpins of both the kōgai and the kanzashi types, as well as the plectra for the shamisen and biwa lutes. One of these even claims to make various archer’s arm protectors (鞆), sword sheaths (鞘) and (other items?) in sharkskin (鮫, supposing that he refers to making sharkskin sword sheaths). But really, no netsuke if you work in ivory?

A hairpin of the so-called kōgai type, a single needle (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden RV-1332-1a)
Two hairpins of the kanzashi type, the top one in silver, the other imitation tortoise, 1820s (Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)
The advert for Ōmiya Ihei’s shop of rice cakes, mochi, printed in blue

One interesting feature of this shopping guide is that a number of shops want to catch more attention and have the information about their business printed in blue. For 1824 this is a very early case of aizurie (藍摺絵) which we can find in Edo really not much earlier than 1830 (see my earlier blog on Hokusai’s Wave off Kanagawa – Hokusai and aizurie). These were of course printed separately and pasted in the correct position in the bound books. Alas, the second part of this very interesting and useful publication didn’t yield any more shops selling netsuke. Next week: Where would one buy a netsuke in Kyoto.

Must see: Hokusai at the Sumida Hokusai Museum, best before July 24th

After quite some time, Japan reopened again for small groups of foreigners, and I was one of them. I also believe that it cannot have been a coincidence that I was not only welcomed by my in-laws but also by Hokusai himself. Indeed, I had an opportunity to see and enjoy two exhibitions devoted to the Master. One would close down the day after my arrival, the other opened just before my departure.

Showing Hokusai prints, illustrated books and a number of paintings all from the British Museum collection, the first one, at the Suntory Museum of Art, also displayed a few ‘masterpieces of painting from collections in Japan.’ Could it be that the organizers were afraid that the audience would be disappointed with the 108 works on loan from the BM, including one of the five best copies of the Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa in existence? Or that it would fail to recognize the exceptional strength in the painting of the demon inhabitants of Onoshima, in vain trying to pull the string of Minamoto Tametomo’s bow, complemented with an inscription by Kyokutei Bakin (曲亭馬琴)? The painting celebrating the completion of the novel Strange Tales of the Crescent Moon, Chinsetsu yumiharizuki (椿説弓張月, 5 parts, 1807-1811) was even displayed together with the mirrored image from the first part of the book that was the source for the painting. Or would it maybe overlook the elegance of the rather impromptu portrayal of the poem diviner that Hokusai made his first work of the brush in the New Year of 1827? Then there were also three paintings from his 88th year (when Hokusai was extremely productive, making at least some thirty paintings), one of a couple of ducks in the water, another of a cormorant on a wooden pole, and then one of the Chinese philosopher Sōshi (荘子, 胡蝶の夢) with a butterfly hoovering over his head – as he once woke up after dreaming of a butterfly and being unable to discern whether he had become that butterfly, or whether that butterfly had assumed his form. Sure, it was nice and good to see all these works again, though nothing new for me, even among the seven works from Japanese collections.

Indeed, for a real and most welcome surprise, I had to wait until the day before my departure, when I had a chance to see the very nice exhibition of demons in the oeuvre of Hokusai at the Sumida Hokusai Museum (すみだ北斎美術館 until 28 August). Amongst the large and comprehensive selection of plates from, among others, the various Manga volumes (北斎漫画, 27 plates from vols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11 and 12), the Quick Guide to Drawing Vol. 4, Hayashinan yonpen Ehon hayabiki (早指南四編画本早引, 1817), and the later Ehon hayabiki Vol. 2 (画本早引二編, 1819), all with their modest basic tints of rose and grey, as well as those from the Illustrated Life of Shakyamuni, Shaka goichidaiki zue (釈迦御一代記圖繪, 6 plates, 1845), just in black and white, sumizuri, the three full colour prints of the One Hundred Ghost Stories, Hyaku monogatari (百物語) of late 1831 (Shunen しうねん, Sara yashiki さらやしき, and Warai Hannya 笑ひはんにや) almost light up on the walls as it were.

Katsushika Hokusai, Dōjōji, The Sumida Hokusai Museum

However, the great surprise is a painting on Dōjōji (道成寺), the story about the young monk Anchin who used to stay with the headman of the village of Masago when making his annual pilgrimage to Kumano, whose daughter fell in love with him and begged him to marry her. This, of course, he refused to do, but she followed him to the Dōjōji Temple where he eventually hid from her under the temple bell. When she found out about his hiding place, she turned into a dragon and coiled herself around it, thus not only destroying the bell with her heat, but also burning Anchin to dust as well as perishing herself in the molten bell.

In Hokusai’s painting the dancer impersonating the young woman has adopted the appearance of a female demon with long waving hair, wearing a Ja mask, rather evoking a snake demon than the more common female Hannya demon, and holding onto a pillar of the temple, a red and white staff in his raised right hand. He is dressed as a Shirabyōshi dancer, wearing a red hakama over a white kimono. The painting in ink and pigments on paper measures 823 x 263 mms. and is signed Hokusai ga (北斎画), with two seals reading Tatsu/masa (辰政), suggesting a dating in the Bunka period, but before 1810, when Hokusai started using the name of Taito (戴斗). Please note: the painting is only on display until July 24th, when it will be replaced by a photographic reproduction.

The story is obviously derived from the Nō repertoire but it was also the source for various dance dramas in kabuki. Though difficult to proof – there are quite a few performances of Dōjōji plays in early Bunka — it seems most tempting to relate the painting to the performance of Sugata hanamusume Dōjōji, 容艶花娘道成寺, in XI/1807 at the Nakamura Theatre (中村座, KN 5:404). This performance was in so far special, as Segawa Rokō III (瀬川路考, 1751-1810), who had just before taken the name of Senjo (仙女) so as to prepare for retirement, played the role of Kiyohime, wearing a mask to make her look like a snake, which is the Ja mask in the painting, while Segawa Michinosuke (瀬川路之助, 1782-1812), who had just been given the name of Rokō IV, played the role of the monk Anchin.

The fact that Hokusai also made a print of Segawa Michinosuke, in the role of Komume (女房小梅), the wife of Ume no Yoshibei (梅の由兵衛), played by Sawamura Gennosuke, after an unrecorded performance of Sumida no haru geisha katagi (隅田春妓女容性) in the same year 1807, might well suggest some special relation between Hokusai and Michinosuke, even more so as this diptych composition represents the only known example of a traditional print of actors since Hokusai left the Katsukawa atelier. This diptych composition is apparently only reproduced in my Hokusai. A Guide to the Serial Graphics (1974), Plates 34 and 35, only the Michinosuke sheet being known in a Japanese collection.

When the museum acquired the painting, it had a very simple mounting (also on display) that hardly supported the vivid sense of drama in the painting. The museum therefore decided to have it remounted with a very appropriate silk brocade with repeated motifs of dragons, also giving it much wider margins right and left that really make the painting stand out, a well-deserved upgrade as it were. This is the first time it is shown at the Sumida Hokusai Museum and, again, only on show until July 24th.        A 192 page catalogue complements the exhibition, published by Kodansha and available at 2.640円 (ISBN 978-4-06528083-6).

I am grateful to the Sumida Hokusai Museum for allowing me to use their photographs of the painting.

Kuniyoshi’s very first ideas for his new compositions

As we know, the aspiring print designer Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) was initially really having a hard time making a living, at times even obliged to be selling tatami mattings or carve the heads of puppets, until, from 1827 he could enjoy some success when his series of Portraits of All of the One Hundred and Eight Heroes of the Popular Suikoden, Tsūzoku Suikoden gōketsu hyakuhachinin no hitori, published by Kagaya Kichiemon, finally brought him success. At the time, he still could hardly afford some good paper or use it as he would have liked. This we can clearly see in his preparatory sketch for the portrait of Rōshi Ensei in this series (National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, RV-3513-x; see my Drawings by Utagawa Kuniyoshi. The Hague 1988, 27), where he used the verso of the sheet for a design of a seated Chinese man. Also in the sketch for Waikyakko Ōei in the same collection (RV-3513-139; Forrer, 42), he later used some empty space for some scribblings of heads and arms, and even what seems to be a first idea for his print of Kikenji Tokyō of the Suikoden series.

Especially this very first idea that came to Kuniyoshi’s mind when he thought about his print of Kikenji Tokyō, as well as quite some other designs that are known in various versions, help us to get closer to Kuniyoshi’s artistry, almost allowing us to look over his shoulders as he was working. As an art historian, I find this fascinating. However, many years ago, when I suggested to some Japanese publisher to make a book on sketches and the corresponding final prints and bookplates, he looked really puzzled, almost shocked by the idea that I didn’t realize that it was only the final product that mattered, as he assured me.

Minamoto no Tametomo shooting an arrow at the ship with Mochimitsu and his warriors. Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden RV-3513-95

What I consider a very fine example of Kuniyoshi at work is the preliminary sketch of the great archer Minamoto no Tametomo (1139-1170?) in full armour, shooting an arrow at Mochimitsu’s ship that is seen in the distance on the water, thus drowning almost all of the three hundred men with it (RV-3513-95; Forrer 45).* Kuniyoshi intended this design for the series of The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidō Road, Kisokaidō rokujūkyūtsugi no uchi, published by Kagaya Yasubei in the years 1852-53. There is already some correction on Tametomo’s face in pasted on pentimenti and even the cartouches for the series and print titles are indicated. But then, as Kuniyoshi showed the preliminary sketch to Kagaya Yasubei, his publisher – and we didn’t know that this was sometimes (?) or maybe always (?) done – he apparently demanded to adapt the design and make it a portrait of the famous 9th century archer Yuriwaka Daijin instead, as we can infer from the scribbling at the bottom, reading ‘Yasubei [says] this [must be] Yuriwaka,’ Yasubei kore Yuriwaka. Amazing, don’t you think. Not only that Kuniyoshi would show, or rather submit his very preliminary sketch to the publisher, but also that he obviously had a say, such as remarking ‘No, forget about Tametomo, I rather want a portrait of Yuriwaka.’

* Please excuse the bad quality of this illustration, this is even better that what I can download from the museum’s website, but as soon as I can access the museum again, I will try to get better pics

And so, Kuniyoshi started working on an adaptation of the design to make it a portrait of Yuriwaka. This we can see in a sketch also preserved in the National Museum of Ethnology (RV-3513-150; Forrer 35). Here he is portrayed without any armour, his clothing just blowing in the wind, though a little less freely than in the print, anyway just a preliminary sketch of the figure of Yuriwaka, although he wouldn’t in the end be stretching the string of his bow as both the string and the arrow would interfere with his face, rather at the moment when he had shot the arrow, as in the original Tametomo design (again as the publisher preferred it?). That is the print published by Kagaya Yasubei in V/1852.

Yuriwaka Daijin shooting an arrow. Courtesy National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden RV-3513-150
The Station of Fukaya from the series The 69 Stations of the Kisokaidō: The heroe Yuriwaka Daijin shooting an arrow

Even then, still not oblivious of his days as a poor aspiring designer of prints, Kuniyoshi didn’t spill any paper and used some empty space in the sheet of this second sketch for three designs of triptych compositions. One of these, at the bottom, between Yuriwaka’s feet, has a first idea for one of his major triptych compositions of A View of the Sea Bottom at Daimotsu Bay, Daimotsu no ura kaitei no zu, with Taira no Tomomori (1151-1185) and some other Taira heroes at the bottom of the sea, rather drowning himself after his defeat in the battle at Dannoura in 1185 than being killed by the Minamoto, attached to a huge anchor, some others already transformed into crabs hurrying to attack Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s ship, the print published by Fujiokaya Keijirō, c.1852 (Robinson T 266; Forrer, Kuniyoshi. Prestel 2020, 95).

A View of the Sea Bottom at Daimotsu Bay, with Taira no Tomomori and some other Taira heroes attached to a large anchor

The other project for a triptych composition, on the right edge, is more difficult to identify. Turning the portrait of Yuriwaka left, we see a group of persons to the right, a man swaying a sword or spear in the centre, and some diagonal lines on the left sheet. Eventually, we can associate this with the print of Benkei Master and Servant in Danger at the Ataka Barrier in the Province of Kaga [when Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189), the Master, and Benkei, the Servant, tried to escape from the troops of Hōjō no Tokimasa in the guise of travelling monks], Kaga no kuni Ataka no seki ni Benkei shūjū no kinan wo suku no zu, published by Tsujiokaya Bunsuke years later, in III/1856. The first sketch recording Kuniyoshi’s first idea of a composition was obviously quite severely adapted in the details, but the general composition remained intact. Anyway, this demonstrates that Kuniyoshi held on to his original ideas of c.1852 and didn’t think it a problem to get back to these some four years later.

Benkei Master and Servant in Danger at the Ataka Barrier in the Province of Kaga

As for the third sketch of a triptych composition, in the left margin, of which only a small part can be seen, it is too difficult to associate this with any known print. Anyway, so far this really may contribute to a much better understanding of Kuniyoshi’s practice as an artist.

Hokusai’s View of Delft

Or is it The Hague? From the rather typical buildings in Hokusai’s scheme of Western perspective that he includes in his Hokusai manga volume 3 of 1815, it is quite obvious that his original inspiration was some European optical print. From the 1730s, the Dutch introduced such prints, produced in London (most by Robert Sayer, Henry Overton, and Carington Bowles), Paris (Chéreau, Daumont, and Basset), and Augsburg (G.B. Probst), in quite large numbers in Japan, where they met with an eager audience. When they reached Edo, they helped Okumura Masanobu develop his so-called ‘perspective views,’ ukie 浮絵, of the interiors of the kabuki theatre and views of the main street of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters around 1739, and later also of other subjects. Although he himself always denied this, the young painter Maruyama Ōkyo 1733-1795 is believed to have made quite a number of Japanese views in this manner for some Kyoto merchant of toys who also sold the necessary apparatus to view these ‘perspective views’ best.

Katsushika Hokusai, The principle of Western perspective from the Hokusai manga, vol. 3 Nagoya: Eirakuya Tōshirō, 1815

I always imagined that Hokusai based his scheme of the Western principles of perspective on some Japanese print and figured that Utagawa Toyoharu’s Perspective view of a harbour in the Southeast of Holland, Ukie Oranda tōnan minato no zu (浮繪和蘭陀國東南港圖) would be the most likely example. Hokusai would then have viewed the Toyoharu print through a zograscope, the apparatus that we can also see in some Harunobu print (see the 2002 Chiba City Museum Harunobu exhibition catalogue, no. 134), which gives a mirrored image. He then used one of the buildings and just two of the trees. This would have sufficed for his immediate purpose of making a scheme that would just show the converging lines towards a vanishing point on the horizon, as is seen on the right-hand page.

Utagawa Toyoharu, Ukie Orandakoku tōnan no minato no zu Edo: Nishimuraya Yohachi, 1770s Courtesy the Trustees of the British Museum (2004,0505,0.1)

To the right in that diagram, he specifies that ’When you start here with a height of three inches’ (koko nite sansun no takasa ni kakan toki ha こゝにて三寸のたかさにか々んときは) to continue at the first line that ‘this is then one inch’ (koko nite issun nari こゝにて一寸也). He then goes on, from top down, explaining ‘The rule of dividing into three’ (mitsuwari no hō 三ツわりの法), which means that ‘You should make the sky two’ (futatsu wo ame to subeshi 二ツを天とすべし), and then ‘the earth becomes one’ (hitotsu wo chi to nasu nari 一ツを地となす也). And the earth is thus printed in grey, whereas the top two horizontal bands, making up the sky, are left blank.

On the left-hand page, Hokusai demonstrates how this would work, drawing a simple scene of a two-storey building, two trees, three figures, and a ship on the horizon. On the front of the house, he notes that ‘the windows are nine tenths’ (kyūbun no mado ha 九分のまどは), whereas they are only ‘three tenths’ (sanbun 三分) on the side, and by the trees he just adds the word ‘tree’ (ki 木). The set of converging lines to the left have the notes ‘what painting looks like’ (kaku no gotoshi かくのごとし) and ‘you should paint in accord with the lines’ (wari no suji ni awase kakubeshi わりのすじにあわせかくべし). Especially from the trees and the standing figures, it becomes clear that we see objects that are nearby larger than those more distant.

View of the Canal and the Municipal Cannon Foundry of The Hague

Then, apart from the circumstance that we do have some rivers but no harbours in the southeast of the country, the question, of course, remains what did Toyoharu take as his example. Until recently I imagined that he would have been familiar with the print of a View of the canal and the municipal cannon foundry of The Hague, Vue du Canal et de l’Hotel de Fonderie de canon a la Haye, published in Paris by Basset at the rue St Jacques à St Nicolas. Until 1660, cannons were founded at the Kloosterkerk, a church indeed, on the Mauritskade at The Hague and the canal was specifically made around 1580 so as to transport the cannons to other cities in the provinces of Holland and West Frisia. Later, the foundry was moved to a new and impressive building on the Nieuwe Uitleg, designed by Pieter Post (1608-1669), and that is the building in this print. But then, there is a rather wide sidewalk along the foundry and the other buildings further down, with quite some people on it, then the row of trees, and only then the canal. But Toyoharu’s print has water both to the right and to the left of the row of buildings. For Hokusai’s view this wouldn’t matter. For the sake of making a clear and directly understandable diagram, as said above, he just needs one building to the right, then the sidewalk with only three persons, and he reduces the row of trees to only two.

Isaac van Haastert, View of the Munition Depot of the City of Delft

Recently, I found some optical print with a View of the Munition Depot of the City of Delft, Vuë du Magazin de Munition de la Ville de Delft, designed by the Delft painter Isaac van Haastert (1753-1834) and made into a copperplate by Johann Jacob Stelzer (1706-1780), published by Georg Balthasar Probst (1732-1801) of Augsburg. As this has the water of the river Schie split into two and streaming on both sides of the central buildings, it seems more plausible to associate this view with the Toyoharu print. The ‘Munition Depot’ or Armamentarium, the building figuring conspicuously in the centre, dates from 1601 and still survives today, almost in its original form, with the Lange Geer seen to the right and the Oude Delft to the left—as it is, the printed image is not mirrored. Its location is near the Rotterdam and Schiedam city gates as well as nearby the former city timberyard for the Delfshaven harbour. The view incorporates an arched bridge in the distance and the tower of the old city hall, both surviving today, that we also can see somewhat adapted in the Toyoharu print.

The Armatarium now

So what did Hokusai see? If it was the Toyoharu print, he at least must have viewed it through a zograscope to get the building to the right and the trees to the left, and making the canal into a sidewalk. And the ‘harbour’ mentioned in the title would have inspired him to include a ship on the horizon. If it were the View of the canal and the municipal cannon foundry of The Hague, the sidewalk was there already and he must have viewed it through a zograscope to have the building to the right and the trees to the left. Moreover, he just focused on one building only and just two trees. And if he by chance had an opportunity to look at the print of the View of the Munition Depot of the City of Delft, again through his zograscope, the prominent position of the building would probably make this a more likely example to come to his composition that just served to illustrate the principles of Western perspective. Anyway, as for the Hokusai perspective diagram, it will remain a problem to definitively associate this with what its model was. For Toyoharu it seems most likely that it was the Delft view designed by Van Haastert. As for Hokusai, we cannot totally ignore the view of the The Hague foundry, but also the Delft view cannot be ruled out.

What remains is the group of South Sea Islanders in the lower half of this double-page composition. This is not merely a confirmation that we are here dealing with foreign subjects or influences, there is more to be said on them, but that has to wait for some next time.