Meiji-period wooden board (395 x 260 x 15 mm.), carved on both sides. YAKUSHA-E WOODBLOCK.
Meiji-period wooden board (395 x 260 x 15 mm.), carved on both sides.

A Woodblock of Actor Prints

Meiji-period wooden board (395 x 260 x 15 mm.), carved on both sides.

The obverse is from a triptych print entitled “Kabukiza nakamaku” by Kunisada III. The reverse shows a man gripping a sword, & in the lower left corner, we find carved Kunisada III’s artist’s name, “Kochoro Hosai.” [From the carved seal on obverse]: “Tokyo Fukuda Hatsujiro,” [ca. 1897].

This finely carved woodblock was used as one part of a triptych print depicting Kabuki actors originally created by Kunisada III. The carved image on the reverse is unrelated, and demonstrates the way in which such boards could be re-used for other compositions. We have not been able to identify where this other image appeared.

On the obverse, the small carved seal with text provides us with the services (publisher, printer, and distributor) offered by Fukuda Hatsujiro, along with his address. Curiously, this side also has empty carved boxes for the title and the actor’s role, indicating that they would be printed from separate woodblocks, often with additional colors. In a reproduction of this triptych, the space above the actor gives his name and title: “Nishikido Taro, Onoe Matsusuke.” We find kento on both sides; these were notches used to ensure accurate registration of the image during printing.

A nice example of a woodblock used for producing popular actor prints. Some evidence of worming and wear to the edges, but not affecting the image on the obverse. The worming just touches the hilt of the sword as well as the lower portion of the actor’s kimono on the reverse.

❧ A professional conservator has treated the former furniture beetle infestation by freezing the woodblock for 17 days. She has judged that all life stages of the furniture beetle have been killed (conservation report available on request).

Price: $1,500.00

Item ID: 7365