This antique 19th century Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock was designed by artist Utagawa Kunisada (1786 - 1865). The woodblock is part of a series that details scenes from The Tale of Genji, an 11th century novel by Murasaki Shikibu focused on life in the Japanese imperial court during the Heian period.
This circa 1851 woodblock is from Chapter 53 and depicts a young woman kneeling before Prince Genji and another female as she unwraps a koto in preparation of playing the instrument for her audience. The intimate scene includes a screened wall which has been left open, revealing a wooden deck with a body of water just outside. There is a stone lantern located next to the water with a light glowing inside, suggesting the scene is taking place at dusk. The artwork has saturated colors with the figures wearing patterned clothing which adds visual interest. The edge of the woodblock has a geometric border which is characteristic of the series. The artwork is housed under glass with an ecru mat in a simple black frame.
The woodblock is in good condition with bright colors and displays beautifully. As an antique the piece shows signs of age consisting of minor toning and a few creases at the corners which do not detract from its appearance and are mentioned for accuracy. The frame also shows minor signs of age consisting of nicks and scratches which are also noted in the interests of thoroughness. The frame's paper backing has been opened up and is no longer present but does not affect its appearance when hung on a wall. The woodblock is signed Toyokuni ga, in toshidama cartouche 豊国画(年玉枠) and also bears the following censors' seals: Kinugasa, Murata and Rat 12. There is no blockcutter's mark present. The visible portion of the oban artwork is 9.25" by 13.5" while the framed dimensions are 14.5" by 19" and .25" thick.
The artwork is securely framed and ready to hang on receipt.
This lovely antique Japanese woodblock would be a great addition to a grouping of Utagawa Kunisada artworks or to a wider collection of Edo prints. A terrific antique find!
Antique Utagawa Kunisada Toyokuni III The Tale of Genji Monogatari Chapter 53 Japanese Woodblock