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Double-sided Key Block for Ukiyo-e Print

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III) (side a), Eisen Keisai (side b)

Asian Art

This carving served as the key block, the first one made by the carver, based on Kunisada’s original drawing. It provides the basic outlines of the design. The key block was used to make a number of simple black impressions that served as guides for the carving of all subsequent blocks. The print made by this carving was the mirror image of what we see here, so all of the text on the block is in reverse. This block is actually signed by its carver, Asai Ginjirō (1844–1894). There was no general policy with regard to carvers signing their work, but such signatures are definitely in the minority.
MEDIUM Cherry wood
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES ca. 1830
    PERIOD Edo Period
    DIMENSIONS 15 1/2 x 10 1/8 x 3/8 in. (39.4 x 25.7 x 1 cm)  (show scale)
    ACCESSION NUMBER 2002.119.15a-b
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. Alvin E. Friedman-Kien
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Side a: Toyokuni III (Kunisada) Three Women Musicians On a Balcony. A woodblock for ukiyo-e print of an autumn scene of women playing shamisen and biwa (musical instruments) with an attendant who carries tray with tea cup. Condition: Very good. Wood is stained black from ink used in printing. Side b: Keisai 18 Tokyo cuisine style dishes. (Tokyo ryori jyuuhachi sakana) Name of place: Sumiyoshi cho… (incomplete) The other name of place: Honya bakuro (bakuro) four Carver's name: Cho-ei Keyblock for outline of ukiyo-e print showing two women in a restaurant, holding papers in their hands. Condition: Few tiny breaks in outline. Old break (stable) at upper left.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III) (side a) (Japanese, 1786–1865). Double-sided Key Block for Ukiyo-e Print, ca. 1830. Cherry wood, 15 1/2 x 10 1/8 x 3/8 in. (39.4 x 25.7 x 1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. Alvin E. Friedman-Kien, 2002.119.15a-b. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2002.119.15a_PS20.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 2002.119.15a_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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