Kitao Masanobu
Coupe under a Cherry Tree
c. 1780

Signed: Masanobu ga and kakihan; hashira-e, 64.0 x 11.5 cm; nishiki-e with karazuri; (Publisher’s?) Logo on the umbrella

The versatile, highly gifted Masanobu, an older student of Kubo Shunman’s, played a role as a painter and as an author under the name Santō Kyōden. His epochal work, Yoshiwara keisei shin bijin awase jihitsu kagami, appeared in 1783, which is fascinating because of the unusually sophisticated colouration of the prints (cf. cat.121). This hashira-e is also a ukiyo-e masterpiece. Due to increased censorship, however, he devoted himself exclusively to writing after 1789.

Provenance: Bunshichi Kobayashi; Sir Frank Swettenham; H. L. Foster; Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. (London, June 1962)
Riese Collection #55

The young couple is cherry blossom viewing, a popular spring pastime. Masanobu designed few prints, and few impressions of any of his single-sheet prints seem to have survived. Quite apart from its rarity, however, this print is remarkable fort he detailed precision of its engraving, from the delicacy and clarity of the cherry blossoms above to the details of maker’s emblems on the umbrella and the rose-colored matt he young man carries over his shoulder. Although the print has been trimmed at the right, enough of a character remains to recognise the name Dōjun, a name which appears on similar mats in prints by Utamaro, and others.

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 46.