Woodblock print on paper, possibly a self-portrait of the artist, produced by the Japanese woodblock artist Utagwa Kunisada (1786-1865), later known as Utagawa Toyokuni III, and published by Ryogoku Kagaya in Tokyo, Japan, in February 1865.

Although works by this artist are not listed in the official catalogue, it was possibly exhibited by a retailer at the Japanese court at the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition where it was bought by John Twycross.

Woodblock prints like one could have been exhibited under two categories: Class 22, Printed Paperhangings, or Class 42, Toys.

In Printed Paperhangings, G. Inouye from Osaka exhibited 'Printed Paperhangings', Kiriu-Kosho Kuwaisha (now spelt Kiriu-Kosho Kaisha) and T. Akiyama of Tokyo exhibited 'Paperhangings and artistic papers' and M. Tani, Osaka, exhibited 'Printed Paperhangings'. Printed paperhangings, as a nineteenth century term, often referred to wall papers.

In Class 42, Toys, Kiriu-Kosho Kuwaisha and T. Akiyama of Tokyo are listed as having exhibited 'Dolls, Playing Balls, Painted Pictures, &c'. It is more likely that artistic wood block prints such as this one would have been exhibited in this category because of the vivid, graphic subject matter.

In this image, a young man with a shaved head kneels in a room with dishes with coloured powders, possibly pigments, on the floor around him, offering the possibility that the subject is in fact the artist himself. A stylised rooster frames the top of the composition.

To many in the Melbourne Exhibition's largely western audience, the flattened pictorial form and composition of Japanese prints remained puzzling, and often misunderstood. 'The Japanese pictures were very curious, some of the figures being made to rise considerably above the background', the official catalogue to the exhibition observed, while the Argus newspaper - quoted in the official catalogue - commented of the display of porcelain figures that although 'Stamped with character...the human figure more often than otherwise [is] grotesque in position and humorous in expression.'

Physical Description

Signed Japanese coloured wood block print on paper depicting a bald man seated on a carpet with dishes of coloured powder on the floor around him. A stylised rooster frames the image at the top margin.

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