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BUNCHO Japanese Woodblock Print AN ELEGANT COURTESAN OF 18TH CENTURY EDO

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BUNCHO Japanese Woodblock Print AN ELEGANT COURTESAN OF 18TH CENTURY EDO

IPPITSUSAI BUNCHO

The Courtesan Handayu of the Nakaomiya House of Pleasure, from the series "Fuji-bumi (Folded Love-letters)"


Date: originally published c. 1760s, this is a mid-20th century printing
Size: approx. 5.75" x 12.25"
Condition: VG, no flaws of note
Impression: VG, excellent registration, solid key lines, and surface texture
Color: Fine, deep saturated color and bleed through to verso

The elegant and talented courtesan Handayu of the Nakaomiya House of Pleasure, was the highest ranking Yoshiwara beauty of her time. She was also a renowned koto player, whose likeness was celebrated by the finest ukiyo-e artists including Koryusai, Harunobu (who portrayed her with a koto) and this gem by Buncho.


ABOUT IPPITSUSAI BUNCHO
Ippitsusai Buncho was a Japanese print designer and book illustrator active in Edo (present day Tokyo). He may have been a pupil of the ukiyo-e artist Ishikawa Yukimoto. He is principally known for prints of the following types: hosoban (narrow format); yakushae (pictures of actors) and bijinga (pictures of beautiful women). Buncho's style resembles that of his contemporaries, Suzuki Harunobu (1724-1770) and Katsukawa Shunsho (1726-1792), who incorporated a lyricism with a naturalistic depiction of the subject. In 1770 Buncho collaborated with Harunobu and Shunsho to produce Ehon butai ogi (picture book of stage fans; untraced), which featured yakusha nigaoe (pictures of likenesses of actors) and challenged the traditional dominance of theater illustration by the Torii school. 

Buncho abandoned yakushae in 1772, and from 1769 to 1774 he designed bijinga, including Chayamusume Kasamori Osen (Osen of the Kasamori teahouse; untraced) and Miko no Ohatsu (The miko Ohatsu; untraced). His women have high noses, pointed eyes, flat foreheads, thick eyebrows and pursed lips, giving them a cynical charm. His movements after 1774 are unknown, but a memorial 'surimono' (printed object; de luxe print) printed after his death suggests that he remained active in the art world until his death in c.1794.

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