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(1797 - 1861)
Nikki Danjô and the stolen hereditary role
- Figure studies for a print related to the kabuki play "Sendai hagi" -
(for details pls. read the info text below)

Preparatory brush drawing; sumi (black ink) on thin paper.

Date:                   c. 1840-50
Size of sheet:      c. 12 x 14 cms / c. 4 3/4" x 5 1/2"

No paper defects.
Provenance: Kuniyoshi's studio.

Ref. no.: # S-0151
Price:  € 1,900.00
Study / first sketches for a woodblock print. - The preliminary sketches depict characters and scenic elements of the very popular kabuki play, "Sendai hagi", which is based on events that had occurred in the year 1660:
The play premiered in 1777 in Osaka. At left, Nikki Danjô is seen carrying in his mouth the stolen hereditary role while performing magic movements with his hands allowing him to transform into a rat. At the bottom of the drawing the rat is seen fleeing from the wet nurse, Masaoka, who had observed the theft and who now is trying to kill the animal with a fan. Scenes from the play and bust portraits of actors in the role of Nikki Danjô were popular depictions in Japanese woodblock prints of the 19th and (early) 20th centuries. -

By far the largest body of surviving preparatory drawings for Japanese prints is formed by the brush work of Kuniyoshi. It seems that his studio preserved and systematically collected the master’s drawings to an extent unparalleled by other schools, to serve as teaching material for his many students. The drawings were initially bound in numerous albums inscribed Kuniyoshi sô ('Kuniyoshi’s drafts') which then may have been bought by the French dealer, BING, in the early 1880s.
Two of the albums were directly bought by the V&A MUSEUM in London in 1889, many others by the Parisian collector EMILE JAVAL. From there, many were acquired by the Dutch collector F. LIEFTINCK from the dealer FELIX TIKOTIN. These were finally acquired by the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, in 1958. Eight other albums were reportedly in the collection of Mr. THOMAS STAUFFER of Chicago as late as in the 1960s (information taken from the sources listed below).

Detailed information on Kuniyoshi’s shita-e ('preparatory drawings'), his style and artistic approach, as well as on the origins of the drawings, is given by Matthi Forrer in his study of the holdings in the Museum of Ethnology at Leiden, NL. We highly recommend the following books:
- M. Forrer, Drawings by Utagawa Kuniyoshi - from the collection of the National Museum of Ethnology Leiden; The Hague, 1988. We still have three copies of this now rare, out-of-print, book for sale!
- B.W. Robinson, Drawings by Utagawa Kuniyoshi - in the collection of Ferd. Lieftinck of Haren, Holland; Groningen, 1953.
- Fagioli, Utagawa Kuniyoshi: 90 disegni; Firenze, 1985.
- Fagioli, Kuniyoshi - an appreciation of his drawings; in: ANDON no. 21; 1986.

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