I went to my favourite local auction house today, I'd spotted something in the catalogue that made my 'art antennae' go into alert-mode! After a little research I realised the description in the auction catalogue was, how shall I put it? . . . economical with the truth. I could be on to a bargain!
In case someone had spotted what I had spotted and the bidding went bonkers, I decided to leave a modest commission bid with the auctioneer and cross my fingers.
But I couldn't resist popping in to the auction . . . and YES! The auctioneer banged down the hammer and I got the print for much less than my commission bid max.
I skipped home and couldn't wait to get it out of it's grubby frame . . . I know it's a bit faded but the condition isn't bad at all. What I've found is a collaborative print between two major Japanese artists, Kunisada (who used his pseudonym 'Toyokuni III' to sign this print) and Hiroshige in a series of prints called 'Fifty-three stations (of the Tokaido Road) by the Two Brushes'
Kunisada, who was famous for portraying Kabuki actors, did the figures in the foreground. This print has a woman (probably a Geisha, as she has blackened teeth) wearing a shibori dyed cotton yukata (summer kimono robe), she looks as if she's just been bathing in the hot springs and is drying her face.
I think the other figure is a maid? but her clothes and hairstyle are quite elaborate, so maybe a she's a Maiko (trainee Geisha)? Or is she selling something? I'm not sure exactly what is in the basket, is it food or cosmetics, or souvenir trinkets? It looks like a toy box!
Kunisada was 68 and Hirosada 57 when they worked on this series together, I think they must have been old mates. I love how they called themselves 'Two brushes ' (it makes me think of The Two Ronnies!). In fact when Hirosada died only a few years later, during a plague epidemic, it was Kunisada who designed his friend's memorial plaque.
Hiroshige who died on 12 October 1858 by Kunisada
I can't quite believe I've found such a gem.