立ち姿 (Standing Courtesan)

Designer: Kaigetsudo Dohan | Carver: David Bull | Printer: Shun Yamamoto

Paper size: 24cm by 15.5cm | Enlargement | Shipping Code: [M] ? | Currency: $ / £ /

Price: $ 75.00£ 58.00€ 69.00

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Description: Here we have quite a special image - one of the famous designs from the Kaigetsudo school of ukiyo-e painters. Little is known about the men of this group, and the reference books are full of contradictory theories about who they were and when they worked. Most of the work produced by the Kaigetsudo school was in the form of scroll paintings on silk or paper, but they are known to have left a couple of dozen print designs as well. This one was done by Kaigetsudo Dohan, and the best guess for a date for it is ‘early 1710s’. The signature reads ‘Nihon-giga Kaigetsu Matsuyo Dohan zu’.

In my position as a westerner living in Japan, I am able to see a print like this from the point of view of both cultures, and am always surprised about how different these views are. From the western side, opinions are easy to summarize - the Kaigetsudo prints are seen as one of the greatest achievements in ukiyo-e, and ukiyo-e itself is seen as one of the greatest achievements in all world art. On those extremely rare occasions when a Kaigetsudo print has come on the auction market, collectors have fought each other madly to buy it; these are the most coveted of all Japanese prints.

On the Japanese side, things are somewhat different - not only is the name ‘Kaigetsudo’ almost completely unknown, but ukiyo-e itself is not even considered to rank among the ‘top’ arts. That status is reserved for things like calligraphy, pottery, noh performance, and tea ceremony. This attitude has mitigated somewhat in recent times; extensive praise from overseas over a period of many years has gradually lifted the status of ukiyo-e to a level where it is now accepted as an ‘art’ by the general population, but there is no question that such an attitude is not shared by those who consider themselves true connoisseurs of traditional Japanese culture. For these people, the idea of hanging an ukiyo-e print in their tokonoma alcove would be completely inconceivable ...

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