I love auctions and often surf through online catalogues to see if there's anything worth viewing and perhaps bidding for. Last week I spotted a lot which definitely got me interested and after visiting the auction rooms I was determined to bid – but I would be on the road up to Liverpool on Saturday! I'd have to put in a 'commission bid' and trust the auctioneer to bid for me. I've never done this before, I cautiously filled out the form and hesitated over the price to put as my limit. The upper estimate might not be enough but I didn't want to pay too much.
On Sunday evening I checked the auction web site, the price realised for 'my lot' was below the figure I'd put on the form – I must have won!!!! Hurray!!!! So on Monday I collected my bargain buy . . .
. . . a couple of tatty old picture frames . . .
containing two Japanese woodcuts :-) I'm chuffed to bits! (it doesn't take much)
The first one is by . . .
Hiroshige! Well, probably it's Hiroshige II (1829 - 1869) or Hiroshige III (1842 - 1894) – not the main man Ando Hiroshige (now that would be amazing). Hiroshige II was the talented pupil of Ando Hiroshige who became his master's adopted son and married his daughter. When the couple divorced Ando Hiroshige's daughter married another pupil of the master who took the name Hiroshige III. The confusing thing is that all three artist's signatures are very similar! Lot's more research is needed!
In the background of this print is a crowd standing on a bridge watching a firework display. I love the woodgrain texture across the night sky and the sense that the crowd is brightly lit from behind.
In the foreground a woman (I think?) crouches in a covered barge – why is she hiding? I wish I could read Japanese and translate the title! It's so clever how the hair is printed first in a translucent dark grey and then a solid black. That little wisp of hair at her temple is so cute, is it to show she is slightly dishevelled? And the way the fabric pattern is printed is gorgeous.
The second print is a bigger puzzle. There is a note on the mount saying it is by Yoshichika – an artist I can find little about. Prints I've found purporting to be by him have a signature which don't match this . . .
The scene of sumptuously dressed ladies walking by a river in which there are half naked men, is cheeky and extremely decorative. I'll have to get the title translated and find out what it's all about! There is so much going on in the design, the detail in the fabric patterns is awesome – amazing skilled work.
Postscript: 18 December 2008
This is what I've discovered so far:
The first print is most likely to be by Hiroshige II, the apprentice and adopted son of Ando Hiroshige. He carried on the master’s great themes and scenes and produced high quality work but not designs of great originality. The signature, mid right, is definitely ‘Hiroshige’ but this was used by all three ‘Hiroshiges’ at some point in their careers. However the style of the signature panel and the lozenge seal seem to be that of Hiroshige II 1829-1869.
The subject is a popular one for printmakers: watching fireworks on the Ryogoku Bridge and from pleasure boats on the river below. Beautiful women in the pleasure boats is another favourite. My hunch is that this is the central panel of a large triptych, as this is is the central part of the boat. Stylistically I would think this dates from about 1860. Each of the three prints would have the title and signature and stand alone as a design – of course the chance of all three images staying together and in good condition for 150 years is slim so a complete set would be far more valuable! But it’s a lovely image by a well known printmaker. I would guess the title refers to the Ryogoku Bridge, pleasure boats, beautiful women, fireworks, or something of that ilk!
The other print, showing a grand lady and attendants beside a river is supposed to be by Yoshichika. But I can’t find out much about him – his signature is shown lower left but I haven’t been able to check this against an authenticated print. I found a reference to an artist called Ichi Yoshichika 1787 – 1872 and a note saying nothing more is known about him!
But I love the depiction of different textile designs and the ‘Onna norimono’ or noblewoman’s palanquin
great reference for one here. The title of the print, top right, might refer to a woman by name with her attendants and bathers. Or it may refer to a well known story of the time.
With a bit more delving I hope to find out more!