Complete Printing Block Set for Beauty Reading a Letter

by Harunobu (1724 - 1770)

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Complete Printing Block Set for Beauty Reading a Letter by Harunobu (1724 - 1770)

Exceptionally Rare Complete Printing Block Set for Beauty Reading a Letter
By Harunobu
Produced by Kyoto Hanga-in

This Complete Set - This is an extremely rare complete set of carved blocks for a fine Kyoto Hanga-in reprint of a classic Harunobu beauty portrait. The set comprises seven cherry wood blocks and a single print as an example of the subject, although not printed from these blocks. Six of the blocks are double-sided, and one is single-sided. Some of the blocks are carved with images for two separate colors on one side of the block. A few areas are carved on more than one block, perhaps for color variations, as the tie-dyed obi appears on two blocks, the red dotted robe hanging over the folding screen appears on two blocks, and the sliding panel at left appears on two blocks as well as on a third block in a different but incomplete striped pattern.

Six colors were used to produce the image, along with the black key block, an additional black block, and a block for the embossing on the white kimono. The key block features all the black lines in the print, and is carved with incredible precision and fine line work. Pigments remain on the blocks, including two shades of red, blue, green, gray, and yellow. Paper remnants of the hanshita or preparatory drawing are still glued to some of the blocks. The colors were registered by aligning each print along an L-shaped kento mark on the lower right corner of each separate image. One block has split lengthwise, although not through the carving, and has been repaired with the additional of small blocks at each end attached with wooden pegs

The complete set of blocks are a fascinating, rare artifact from the recent past. Serious collectors often ask about block sets. They are almost never seen on the market. Once in a while a single block from a broken set is sold for a high price. This is an extremely rare complete set - apparently still usable. A once in a lifetime opportunity for a serious collector to add a block set to a collection.

Kyoto Hanga-in - Founded in 1935, Kyoto Hanga-in produced high quality reprints of works by classic ukiyo-e artists like Hiroshige, Hokusai, Harunobu, Utamaro, and Sharaku, along with shin-hanga prints by artists such as Tsuchiya Koitsu, Bakufu Ohno, and Gihachiro Okuyama. The set arrived packed in newspapers dating from 1972, and the blocks have been unused and in storage since that time. The reprint includes the Kyoto Hanga-in publisher's mark in the right margin, along with the red circular personal seal of the owner, Kiyoomi Shinagawa. Printing blocks are rarely seen on the market, and even more rarely found as complete sets for a single image. These intricately carved blocks offer a wonderful look at the incredible skill and complexity involved in creating a Japanese woodblock print. Don't miss this exceptional opportunity!

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Artist - Harunobu (1724 - 1770)
Size - Print 11" x 7 7/8" + margins as shown; size of blocks varies, approximately 12" x 9" x 5/8"
Condition - Print: With excellent color and detail as shown, slight toning, a few creases at edges. Blocks: Worn, pigment remaining, some paper remnants from the hanshita (preparatory sketches glued to the blocks before carving), repair as noted above. Please see photos for details.