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Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Yushima, the Ghost of Chohan



Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1797-1861

Thirty-Six Fashionable Restaurants of the Eastern Capital: Yushima, the Ghost of Chohan
(Toto ryuko sanjuroku kaiseki: Nanakusa-kan Yushima Chohan no)

signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga and Tori ga (background landscape), artist's seal Kiri, publisher's seal Kyu (Yamamotoya Heikichi of Eikyudo), censor seals Fuku and Muramatsu, and date seal Ushi-ni (year of the ox [1853], 2nd month)

oban tate-e 14 by 9 5/8 in., 35.5 by 24.5 cm

The actor Bando Hikosaburo IV (Bando Kamezo I, 1800-1873) is in the role of the ghost Chohan outside the Nanakusa no Kwan restaurant at Yushima. The background landscape was designed by a student of Kuniyoshi, Utagawa Yoshitori-jo (active ca. 1848-1864).

The success of Utagawa Kunisada's clever actor tokaido and restaurant series which circumvented the old restrictions on portraying actors seems to have inspired Kuniyoshi to produce his own restaurant series featuring actors. A variant impression of the print in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston utilizes dark brown shading on the lines around the eyes, cheeks, mouth and chin, which emphasizes the age of the character. While the affect may have been appropriate for the role, it was less-than flattering for the actor, and as such, it is likely that the publisher opted to dispense with the shading block to present a more youthful likeness of Hikosaburo and make the print more appealing to his fans.

References:
British Museum (www.britishmuseum.org), from the Miller Collection, museum no. 2008,3037.00206
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.22192 (with dark shading)

$900