Artist: Utagawa KunisadaSubject: Kabuki Play: Tsumorukoi Yuki no SekinotoSeries: Parodies of MoonlightPublisher: Tsutaya KichizoFormat: Oban horizontalMedium: Japanese Woodblock PrintDate: 1855Size: 24.9 x 36.9 centimeters
This print depicts a scene from the kabuki play Tsumorikoi yuki no sekinoto. The play has as protagonist famous poets of the Heian period (794-1185) involved in a story of rivalry, revenge, and magic. In this print the poet Otomo no Kuronushi is threatening the courtesan Sumizome with a giant axe as Yoshimune Munesada assist horrified. The scene is taking place in Munesada’s residence, Kuronushi has been sneaking in the residence disguised as the gate keeper Sekibe with the intention to harm Munesada. Munesada’s brother, Yasusada, has recently been killed by Kuronushi; Now his lover, the courtesan Sumizome is seeking revenge. Sumizome is no ordinary human but the spirit of a cherry tree endowed with magic powers and she does not hesitate to use them against her rival. In this print angered and confused by the supernatural phenomena happening around him, Kuronoshi is approaching the helpless looking Sumizome wielding a giant axe not knowing he is heading for his demise.
Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864) (Toyokuni III) was the most popular, prolific, and financially successful designer of ukiyo-e woodblock prints in 19th-century Japan. The term ukiyo-e translates to "pictures of the floating world" and refers to a genre of Japanese art with a wide span of imagery such as kabuki actors, folk tales, landscapes, and even erotica. This movement was critical in forming the Western perception of Japanese art.
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