Prince Genji in Exile at Suma. Kaei VI/4 (1853). Series: A Fashionable Genji. Oban triptych. Signature: Hiroshige ga, Toyokuni ga. Seals: Ichiryusai, date seals. Publisher: Iseya Kanekichi. Censor: Kinugasa Fusajiro, Murata Heiemon. Engraver: Yokogawa Takejiro. Housed in a 31 x 20-inch Whistler style gold leaf frame. $3,750.
A Fashionable Genji is one of the most successful joint efforts of Hiroghige and Kunisada (Toyokuni III). Kunisada was famous for his Genji series. Hiroshige was known for his landscapes. This series combines the specialties of both artists. Several different prints attest to the series' popularity.
In this triptych, Genji is shown during his exile at Suma. He is dressed in fashionable contemporary costume, rather than in Heian-period attire. He looks at the departing boat, which presumably brought him to the island.
From 1829-42, the publisher Tsuruya Kiemon began issuing a serialized novel, Nise Murasaki Inaka Genji (A Rustic Genji by a Fraudulent Murasaki), which was illustrated by Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), arguably the most popular and definitely the most prolific ukiyo-e artist of his time. The saga was a contemporary adaptation by the writer Ryutei Tanehiko (1783-1842) of the classic 10th-century novel Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji). Ryutei's version was set in the fifteenth century, and followed the general theme of the original epic novel, but was written in modern language and embellished with kabuki theatrics. The success of the Inaka Genji ('A Rustic Genji'), told in 38 chapters which were issued in 76 booklets, spurred on a rage in a new genre of woodblock prints: Genji-e (Genji pictures) featuring the star of the novel, Mitsuuji, in his various romantic escapades. Beginning in 1838, artists and publishers began producing Genji-e, with Kunisada leading the way, and reaching a peak in production by the 1850s.
This triptych was produced at the height of the Genji craze. In the 1850s, Kunisada, the leading figural artist, and Utagawa Hiroshige, the leading landscape artist, began collaborating on a group of multi-paneled Genji-e with Mitsuuji and his beauties portrayed by Kunisada and placed within landscapes designed by Hiroshige.
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