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Kyōsai hyakuzu, Ōtsue Figures Imitating Narihira's Journey to the East (Ōtsue no azuma kudari)


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Ōtsue Figures Imitating Narihaira's Jorney to the East (Ōtsue no azuma kudari)

from the series Kyōsai Hyakuzu

by Kawanabe Kyōsai, c. 1863-1866

IHL Cat. #465

About this Print and the Series Kyōsai Hyakuzu

The Print
This print is a parody of a scene in the chapter Azuma kudari (Journey to the East) in the Tales of Ise, a 10th century collection of anecdotes recording the amorous adventures of Ariwara no Narihira.  The standard iconography associated with this scene, which can be traced back to the early 14c, shows Narihira    on horseback with his attendants and companions, as Mt. Fuji towers in the background.1

In Kyōsai's print, Narihira is accompanied by a number of comic figures including the high-domed Fukurokuju, one of the Gods of Luck.  

Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System website http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus/deta/a/azumakudari.htm

The Series
Source: Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyōsai, Oikawa Shigeru, Clark Timothy and Forrer Matthi, Tokyo Shinbun, 1996, p. 206.
This print was issued as part of the series the Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyōsai) which consists of more than 200 pictorializations of proverbs and depictions of famous subjects unrelated to proverbs. The prints were published continuously from 1863 to 1866* by the publisher Wakasaya and the works were later reprinted in album form by the publisher Ōkura Magobei (Ōkuraya) in 1881 and 1886.  The prints in this collection are likely from one of Ōkura Magobei's reprint editions, as they show evidence of having been removed from an album.

One hundred of the proverbs depicted in Kyōsai hyakuzu were translated into French in 1885 under the title Cent Proverbes Japonais by Francis Steenackers and Ueda Tokunosuke.

This print series was very popular, enhancing Kyōsai's reputation and making a large profit for the publishers.

*1863-1866 are the most common publication dates provided for these prints, though the literature cites dates as early as 1862 for the first publication date and reprints of this series are still being made.  The prints were first issued by publisher Wakasaya Yoichi (aka Jakurindō Yoichi) as single-sheet prints, sold in ten print packages in a decorative envelope.  Ōkura Magobei (aka Yorozuya Magobei) re-published the prints in bound book/album form in the 1880s.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Ōtsue Figures Imitating Narihaira's Jorney to the East
 大津絵の東下り  Ōtsue no azuma kudari  
 Artist  Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889)
 Series Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyosai)
ōju Seisei Kyōsai 応需惺々狂斎
 Seal of the Artist None
 Publication Date likely c. 1880s (originally c. 1863-1866)
 Publisher Ōkura Magobei - originally issued by Wakasaya Yoichi and then reprinted in book form by Ōkura Magobei
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent - original album backing
 Genre ukiyo-e; giga (comic print)
 Format koban [vertical yotsugiri (quarter ôban)]
 H x W Paper
 7 1/4 x 4 3/4 in. (18.4 x 12.1 cm)
 H x W Image 
 Collections This Print 
 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 11.37012 and 11.45393.6 (left sheet)
 Reference Literature