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Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
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Toyokuni III, Takanawa between Nihonbashi and Shinagawa

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), 1786-1865

Actors at the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido: Drawing and Print, Takanawa between Nihonbashi and Shinagawa, Yuranosuke
([Yakusha mitate] Tokaido gojusan tsugi no uchi: Hanshita-e, Nihonbashi Shinagawa no aide, Takanawa, Yuranosuke)

drawing with light wash highlighting the face and eyes, signed Toyokuni ga, with red collector's seal Shoan at lower right; the print signed Toyokuni ga, publisher's seal Kyu (Takadaya Takezo), censor seals Kinugasa and Murata, and date seal Ni-hachi (year of the rat [1852], 8th month)

kyogazuri 15 1/2 by 10 7/8 in., 39.3 by 27.5 cm
oban tate-e 14 3/8 by 9/78 in., 36

The drawing is hand-colored with wash on the face and small annotations indicating the desired coloring to guide the carvers creating the color blocks. There are a total of 43 known preparatory drawings for this series, including 32 which were sold by La Portanita Gallery in Milan in 1981 (of which this is one), four were located in American museums, and only seven others have been recorded on the market in the past thirty-five years.

The actor Sawamura Sojuro III (1753-1801) is in the role of Oboshi Yuranosuke from the play Kanadehon Chushingura (The Syllabary Copybook of the Treasury of Loyal Retainers), more commonly known in English as The 47 Ronin, in which Yuranosuke, his son, and others together take revenge on the daimyo Ko no Moronao. The juxtaposition of this episode with Takanawa is a pun on an alternative reading of its first character as 'Ko,' an allusion to Moronao's family name. Additionally, the second character, 'nawa,' means wheel or circle, reimagining Takanawa as 'Ko circle,' that is, the group of ronin committed to taking revenge upon the evil daimyo.

Published:
Kunisada: 32 disegni preparatori per una serie di stampe, La Portantina- Grafica Antica, Milan, Italy, 1981, no. 1

Reference:
Andreas Marks, Kunisada's Tokaido: Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2013, p. 115, cat. T63-01C, and pp. 169-171

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