////Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III). Benzaiten Shrine at Honjō Block One / Fan print, 1840.

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III). Benzaiten Shrine at Honjō Block One / Fan print, 1840.

Artist: Utagawa Kunisada [歌川 国貞] a.k.a. Utagawa Toyokuni III [三代歌川豊国] (Japanese, 1786 – 1865).

Signed: Kunisada ga [国貞画] in a red double-gourd cartouche.

Publisher: Iseya Sōemon [伊勢屋惣右衛門] (Japanese, c. 1776 – 1862).

Date seal and kiwame censor seal: 1840 (Tenpō 11).

Media: Untrimmed fan print (uchiwa-e), 227 x 293 mm.

Title: Benzaiten Shrine at Honjō Block One [ひとつ目乃弁天] (Hitotsume no Benten).

Provenance: The Collection of Paul F. Walter, Christie’s, New York, 2017, lot 341; sold together with 5 other fan prints for $25,000. Before: Christie’s, New York, 1997, lot 93 ($5,520).

Ref: [LIB-1693.2018] The Collection of Paul Walter. — NY: Christie’s, 2017, p. 363.

Ref: Israel Goldman, Catalogue 2018, № 31: “Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) A Woman Reading a Letter by the Light of a Lantern. Hitotsume no Benten (One-eyed Benten). 1840. Fan print. Provenance: Japanese Prints, Paintings and Screens, Christie’s, New York, 1997, lot 93 ($5,520), The Collection of Paul F. Walter, Christie’s, New York, 2017, lot 341. Fine impression and colour. Expertly restored wormholes in the lower margin.”

Markus Sesko comment regarding the series title: “Some time between in the latter half of the 17th century, blind acupuncturist Sugiyama Waichi (1614–1694) cured a neurotic disease afflicting Shōgun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. Tsunayoshi asked Sugiyama what he would like as a reward, he answered that all that he would really desire was just one functioning eye. Now here we arrive at a wordplay. “One eye,” as you know, is Hitotsu-me in Japanese. As Tsunayoshi obviously could not reward Sugiyama with an eye, he gave him the entire first block of the Honjō neighbourhood in Edo, measuring about 1.2 ha. So, Honjō Block One is Honjō Hitotsu-me in Japanese as me not only means “eye,” but also “number.” Sugiyama moved there, but as he was praying to Benzaiten enshrined in the Enoshima-jinja southwest of Kamakura, Tsunayoshi gave Sugiyama permission to erect a small shrine on his new premises that was then dedicated to Benzaiten as well. To spare the old blind man the long trip so to speak. This shrine was named Honjō Hitotsu-me Benzaiten Shrine, short Hitotsu-me Benten, meaning the “Benzaiten Shrine at Honjō Block One.” That is, the label in the print refers to this context, i.e., location, not to a one-eyed Benzaiten. Sugiyama also had some rock formations of the “original” Benzaiten Shrine at Enoshima copied at his place, which was named Iwaya (い王や) (see picture attached). The lantern the woman is holding in the print is inscribed “Imuya” (い無や). Usually, the character mu (無) is not read wa in replacing a syllable, so maybe Imuya can be attributed to artistic freedom on part of Utagawa Kunisada, referring to the local Iwaya garden?”

SKU: SVJP-0252.2018 Categories: ,

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