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Lot 33 - Ryusai SHIGEHARU. 1803-1853 Enjoying the Pilgrimage to Ise in Spring of 1830 [...]

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Enjoying the Pilgrimage to Ise in Spring of 1830 (Bunsei jûsan kanoetora haru okage sandô no yosooi)

Polychrome woodcut on four sheets. Vertical ôban tetraptych: 380X1006 mm. Top right, the title: 「文政十三庚寅春 御影参道の粧. At the bottom, in each sheet, signature: Gyokuryûtei Shigeharu ga. Publisher: Shôhonya Seishichi (Honsei) (Japanese) Japanese Edo period 1830 (Bunsei 13/Tenpô 1), about intercalary 3rd month. Glued on cardboard. Minor defects, good specimen.

Extremely rare quadriptych. The four sheets, the right part of a six-sheeter from 1830 by the Osaka artist Shigeharu, depicts pilgrims on their way to Ise Shrine (just coming into view on the far left), the holy of holies in Japan's native Shinto religion. For commercial publishing reasons many of the faces in the crowd are kabuki actors, (including superstar Utaemon III on the horse), but rather than a stage play this print records a strange social phenomeon of that year. Like Mecca is to Moslems, Ise stands as a compelling once-in-a-lifetime destination for almost every Japanese; but citizens of all ages and, well, walks of life spontaneously dropping everything to go there at the same time — effectively turning main roads into a vastly elongated jamboree — occurred only once every generation or two. Like many good ukiyo-e this Ise-mairi print harbors dozens of interesting details. Food, clothing, and geography are delineated, as well as the all-important pilgrimage paraphernalia. As for the writing on the banners and hats, that mostly lists home towns and how many folk are walking together in one party, but also seen are expressions like 'nuketa', which may be translated as "I escaped!" Indeed, given the confining nature of Edo period society, one might well suppose that pilgrimage mania was merely an excuse to sample the (relatively) classless freedom of the road, and let off steam. On the other hand, many scholars feel that genuine religious fervor did in fact periodically sweep the land. What is clear is that the last mass pilgrimage to Ise occurred at the very end of the shogunate, and nothing similar took its place for Japanese until, in our own era, their lemming-like invasions of Waikiki Beach.

Ryūsai Shigeharu (柳窗重春/柳斎重春) (1803–1853) was an Osaka-based Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock print artist active during the first half of the nineteenth century. Shigeharu was a typical Osaka printmaker. His ukiyo-e designs are nearly all focused around the kabuki theater. Also his style is typical for the Osaka prints: A weird facial expression on a twisted body. The Osaka prints are really a bit different from the prints made in Edo (Toyko). The prints of the Osaka school are also called kamigata. In the Bunsei (文政) era (4/1818-12/1830), Shigeharu began working in various media including single-sheet prints, book illustration, theater billboards and programs, and paintings.[13] His artistic output is generally dated to the period c.1820-1849.

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston has only the diptych, two right sheets of incomplete hexaptych: Accession Number RES.52.67-8.
See, Kitagawa, "Bosuton bijutsukan shozô Kamigata-e mokuroku" (Kansai daigaku, 2007), p. 98; Ikeda bunko, Kamigata yakusha-e shûsei, vol. 2 (1998), #136; Riccar Museum, Kamigata Ukiyo-e 200-nen ten (1975), #156.
For the detailed description of the iconography, see Daruma, no. 11, Summer 1996.

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