Utagawa Toyokuni III (Utagawa Kunisada), ‘The Garden in Snow’, 1854, Scholten Japanese Art
Utagawa Toyokuni III (Utagawa Kunisada), ‘The Garden in Snow’, 1854, Scholten Japanese Art

made in collaboration with Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), the right and left sheets signed Toyokuni ga, and the center sheet signed Yuki no kei oju (Snow landscape on request) Hiroshige hitsu with artist's Ichiryusai seal, with aratame censor seal, date seal Tora juni (year of the tiger [1854], 12th month), and publisher's seal of Mori, Ba, Ni, Moriji (Moriya Jihei of Kinshindo), 1854

oban tate-e 29 3/4 by 14 1/8 in., 75.7 by 36 cm

In the 1850s, Kunisada, the leading figural artist of the time, and Utagawa Hiroshige, the leading landscape artist, began collaborating on a group of multi-paneled Genji-e (Genji pictures) featuring Mitsuuji, the romantic hero of the Inaka Genji ('A Rustic Genji'), with Mitsuuji and his beauties portrayed by Kunisada and placed within landscapes designed by Hiroshige.

In this composition, Mitsuuji looks out over a beautiful snow-covered garden towards a group of young girls who are busy putting the finishing touches on a large snow bunny. One uses a hair ornament to shape the ears, another is using a proper mason's trowel to carve out a spot for a sake cup which will serve as the bunny's eye, and a third isn't helping at all as she tries to blow on her hands to keep warm. The image of beauties in the snow suggests a reference to Chapter 20 in the original Tale of Genji, 'Asagao' ('Morning Glory'), in which maidservants make a giant snowball, but the genjimon in the title cartouche identifies it as relating to Chapter 12. As this was issued in the last month of 1854, it is likely a nod to the coming New Year, which in the zodiac cycle was the Year of the Rabbit.

Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art

Publisher: Moriya Jihei of Kinshindo

Matthi Forrer, The Baur Collection, 1994, Vol. II, cat. no. G586
Andreas Marks, Genji's World in Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2012, pp. 10-17 and p. 226, no. 236, G504

About Utagawa Toyokuni III (Utagawa Kunisada)