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Shini-e - Literally meaning "death prints," shini-e are a category of Japanese woodblock commemorating the death of a famous kabuki actor, or less commonly, an artist or musician. These memorial portraits often depict the actor dressed in light blue death robes, or portraying a famous role associated with the individual. Some include verses or death poems along with the actor's age and date of death, or a posthumous Buddhist name. Other conventional iconography includes lotus blossoms or petals, incense burners, and prayer beads. The tragic suicide of Ichikawa Danjuro VIII in 1854 at the age of thirty-two resulted in nearly 200 shini-e of the actor. Some shini-e are recycled from earlier kabuki prints with the background blocks recut so they could be rushed into production. Most shini-e are unsigned, although some include the artist's signature. These designs are an interesting area of collecting.
Osaka Prints - Produced in the Kansai region, including Osaka and Kyoto, Osaka prints or kamigata-e are instantly distinguishable from typical Edo ukiyo-e. A major difference is the choice of subject matter. Osaka prints were nearly always portraits of actors or kabuki scenes. In contrast, Edo print subjects included beauties, landscapes, nature scenes, warriors, and historic events, in addition to kabuki.
Distinctly different artistic styles also emerged in Edo and Osaka in the 18th and 19th century, resulting in certain recognizable characteristics for each area. Osaka prints feature more subtle, serious figures, reflecting the wagoto or soft style of acting prevalent in the area, along with distinctive facial expressions. The aragato or brash manner of acting popular in Edo influenced print designs towards bolder images of heroism and military prowess.
Much like the style of the prints, the demand for ukiyo-e in the cities of Osaka and Edo also varied. Osaka produced far fewer ukiyo-e designs than Edo did. As a consequence, Osaka prints are rarer and also some of the highest quality prints made in the 19th century, with many featuring deluxe techniques such as burnishing or embossing. Osaka prints are a rare and wonderful collecting area of Japanese woodblocks.
Artist - Edo era artist (not read)
Image Size - 13 1/2" x 9 1/4"
Condition - This print with good detail as shown. Horizontal centerfold. Stitching holes at side, repaired. A few creases. Please see photos for details.
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