Composite Pictures

Yose-e (寄せ絵)

1847-1848

 

These composite pictures combine small figures to make a single larger image, usually a face.  The prints bear different titles.  The text is sometimes humorous, often with puns (kyôbun).  These prints are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ôban.

 

Kuniyoshi - Men Join to Form a Man, Looks Fierce but is really nice

 

Title: At first glance he looks fierce, but he is really a kind person (Mikake wa koi-i tonda iku hitoda, みかけはこわいがとんだいい人だ)

Publisher: Fujioka-ya Hikotarô

 

 

I am grateful to Robert Pryor for this alternate state published by Fujioka-ya Hikotarô.

Kuniyoshi - Gather Together Pictures (yoso-e), Looks Fierce but is really nice (Mikake wa koi-i tonda iku hitoda) KEYBLOCK

 

This is a key block print for the above design.  It is an impression pulled from the first woodblock made by a carver from the artist’s original drawing.  The artist would write instructions for each color on a separate key block print, and the woodblock for each color was cut using one of these as a guide.  Registration marks (kento) are characteristically found on Japanese key block prints (the backwards ‘L’ in the right lower corner and the bar on the right side near the top).  Kento are cut in each woodblock, so that the paper can be properly aligned on each woodblock during printing.  In addition to being a guide for carving the color woodblocks, the key block was also used to apply black ink (usually) in the printing process.  Note that the fabric design is not included on the key block print and does not have a black outline.

 

I am grateful to Robert Pryor for this modern reproduction with an unidentified publisher’s seal.

 

Title: Men join together to form another man (Hito katamatte hito ni naru, 人かたまって人になる)

Publisher: Yamato-ya Kyûbei

 

I am grateful to Robert Pryor for this image.

 

Kuniyoshi - Gather Together Pictures (yoso-e), Tricky Fellow fond of Mischief

 

Title: A tricky fellow fond of mischief (Hito o baka ni shita hito da, 人をばかにした人だ)

Publisher: Yamato-ya Kyûbei of Kawagashi

 

Image courtesy of Richard A. Waldman of The Art of Japan

 

Rat for the eyes; Ox for hair; Tiger for eyebrows; Hare for nose; Dragon birthmark; Snake mouth; Horse ear; Goat character on costume; Cock hair; Monkey birthmark; Dog head; Hog crest on back made of tusks

 

Title: He looks young although he is made-up of the twelve signs for the years (Toshi ga yote mo wakai hito da, 年が寄っても若い人だ)

Publisher: Iba-ya Sensaburô

 

NOTE: This print contains the twelve signs of the Buddhist zodiac.  The head is a dog; the nose is a rabbit; the mouth is a snake; the left eye is a rat; the hair is composed of a cock and an ox; the eyebrows are tiger tails; a dragon and a monkey compose the birthmark on the forehead; the left ear is a horse; the character on the costume is a sheep is; and the crest on the costume is the tusks of a pig.

Kuniyoshi - Gather Together Pictures (yoso-e), Old-looking Young People (var)

 

Title: Even though she looks old, she is really young (Toshiyori no na wakai hito da, 年よりのような若い人だ)

Publisher: Fujioka-ya Hikotarô

 

Kuniyoshi - Men Join to Form a Man Old-looking Young People

 

This is another edition of the above print.

 

This is a reproduction.

Text: Throughout Edo (Edo-ju, 江戸中, in red seal), it’s interesting how a group of people get together to make the world a better place (omoshiroku atsumaru hito ga yoritakari yo ga naoru tote yorokoberu nari, 面白くあつまる人が寄多加利世が直るとてよろこべる形)

Publisher: No seal

 

NOTE: This unsigned print is probably by Kuniyoshi.  It satirizes a builder profiteering from the Ansei earthquake of 1855.  The catfish symbolizes the earthquake, and the profiteer is holding a 100 ryô gold coin (金百両).  I am grateful to Robert Pryor for this image and information.

 

This print and the three following images were published by Izumi Katsujirô about 1891 from newly cut woodblocks.

 

 

 

Kuniyoshi - Men Join to Form a Man,People join together to form another (Hito Katamatte hito ni naru), A person as a person should be

 

Title: A Person as a person should be (Tadajiki nahito, 正じきな人)

 

This preparatory drawing was never made into a woodblock print.  The object in the right upper corner that resembles a bell is a rear view of a sitting man with a long unraveled loincloth. 

Title: The Seven Gods of Good Fortune Join Together to Bring Luck (Kaiun shusse gattai Shichifukujin, 開運出世合体七福神)

Description: Daikoku (大黒), whose image is made up of a composite of all 7 gods, displaying his giant golden phallus and holding a golden mallet (uchide no kozuchi).

Date: 1842-1846 (censor Murata Sahei)

Publisher: Fujioka-ya Hikotarô

 

NOTE: This print is listed in in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (1961, Victoria and Albert Museum, London) as series 183.  The title may also be translated as The Seven Gods of Good Fortune Join Bodies and Give Birth to Luck.  I am grateful to Robert Pryor for information about this print.

 

Title:

Description: Daikoku (大黒), whose image is made up of a composite of all 7 gods

Date: 1846-1852

Publisher: Tsujioka-ya Bunsuke

 

I am grateful to Robert Pryor for this image.

Title: Textile Pattern of People to Stop Your Yawning (欠留人物更紗, Akubidome jinbutsu sarasa)

Subtitle: Fourteen Bodies Look Like Thirty-five People (Jûyonin no karada ni te sanjûgonin ni miyuru, 十四人のからだにて三十五人にミゆる)

Date: c. 1842

Publisher: Yamamoto Heikichi

 

NOTE: There are more bodies than heads.  欠留人物更紗 can also be translated as “A textile pattern of missing people”.

Another state of the above print, courtesy of Robert Pryor

Another state of the above print, courtesy of Horst Graebner

I am grateful to Robert Pryor for this alternate state published by Itô-ya Yohei without a censor’s seal. 

Here are two composite portraits by the Italian (Milan) painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) for comparison.  The one on the left is titled “Spring”, and the one on the right is titled “Winter”.

These two prints are by Kuniyoshiʼs student Yoshifuji.  The one on the left shows the cat-witch of Okabe, and the one on the right is titled “Kittens Gather Together to Become a Mother Cat” (Koneko yoriatsumatte oya ni naru).

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