Artwork Panel: 26.7cm x 42.6cm ≈ 10½" x 16¾"
Silk/Brocade: 35.8cm x 105cm ≈ 14" x 41¼"
Width at Wooden Knobs: 44.8cm ≈ 17½"Information about caring for your wall scroll
Close up view of the artwork mounted to this silk brocade wall scroll
This depicts actor Sawamura Sōjūrō III (1753–1801) in the role of Shimada Jūzaburō in the play Faithful Courtesans in Yoshiwara.
The real Shimada Jūzaburō was a Ronin (rogue or masterless Samurai). He was the love interest of a famous courtesan known as Takao. Following true Japanese honor, the historic Takao is believed to have endured all of her fingers broken one by one, and later hung, rather than to be disloyal to Shimada Jūzaburō.
This is from Utagawa Toyokuni's series "Kabuki Actors on Stage" was published between 1794 and 1796.
The chrysanthemum pattern of this costume became a signature of this actor and strongly influenced the fashion in Japan at the time.
Original artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I (Japanese, 1769–1825).
Original woodblock was created in Japan, around 1800.
Contrary to popular belief, woodblock printing (and in a way, the first printing press) was invented in China. Both artwork and whole books were produced in China using the woodblock print technique. Much of this artwork and printed books made their way to Japan. Emulating the methods and adding to the style, Japanese artists took woodblock printing to the next level.
In Japan, wood block prints are known as or "Moku Hanga". Most were produced during the Edo period (1603–1867). To put that in prospective, that's from before what is now the USA was even a British colony, to just after the Civil War. Some artists continued creating prints into the early 1900s.
At that time, Japanese artists would create "template paintings" with detailed images of "everyday life" scenes of Japan. Some of these "everyday life" or (Ukiyo-e), which translates as "Floating World" images, depict battling Samurai, beheadings, and even prostitution. This leads you to believe that "everyday life", was rather exciting in ancient Japan. However, most Ukiyo-e prints were more tame scenes of everything from women washing clothes, to men writing poetry.
After creating the template, the artist would then have another artisan carve large blanks of wood with those images. The carved wood blocks were then given to yet another artisan, known as an "inker". The inker would then carefully apply wet ink or colorful paint to the various carved surfaces. A sheet of handmade paper was then pressed over the inked woodblock to create the final print. The process was laborious, but not as tedious as hand-painting hundreds of copies from scratch.
If this was an "original" Japanese woodblock print, dating back to the Edo period, the price would be anywhere from $800 to $20,000.
Just to be clear again: This is a reproduction.
The quality of this reproduction is very good, but a true expert will spot this as a reproduction after examining it for a few moments.
I use handmade kozo (mulberry) paper - the same kind of paper that Japanese woodblock print makers used centuries ago.
The pigment-based ink is archival and UV-resistant. The ink manufacturer claims that the giclée prints created with this ink will last 200 years if not in direct sunlight. I figure you'll get a lifetime of enjoyment if you take good care of this wall scroll. I spend hours making sure the colors are vibrant, and touching up areas that might be damaged or missing from the old original print. The result is very close to what the woodblock print would look like if you could go back in time to the Edo period, and buy it from the artist's studio in old Japan.
For years I tried to find a printer that could handle handmade xuan paper without wrinkling, jamming, or clogging print heads. After trying and buying several giclée printers that gave mixed results, I finally found the quality I was looking for in a HP DesignJet z6100 printer with a price tag of around $15000! However, it is a finicky printer that takes about 5 tries to load a sheet of handmade paper (the printer's sensors seem to hate the deckled edge of handmade paper, and often refuse to accept that the paper is loaded with no skew).
I have to use this printer in the USA to create the print, as I can't get a license for such a machine at my other studio in Beijing (The Chinese government fears that I will make counterfeit Chinese currency, or Pro-Democracy propaganda posters with it).
After carefully printing and inspecting this artwork, I sent the raw print on kozo paper to my workshop in Beijing where it was built into a handmade wall scroll. This makes it ready-to-hang (no expensive framing needed), and gives the whole piece a very traditional Asian look.
Because the artist of this piece passed away long ago, and the original artwork is over 100 years old, there is no copyright. However, in some cases, I have paid a license fee to the owner of the original Japanese woodblock print for access to create the digitized image. In a few cases, I bought original 200-year-old woodblock prints and drum-scanned it at high-resolution.
All of this effort on my part means you get a really beautiful Japanese woodblock print reproduction, for a very affordable price. I am not sure I will ever make a profit on these (I would need to charge about double this price if that was the goal), but I really like to make unique Asian artwork affordable and accessible to everyone.
Want a customized wall scroll or custom sized print? Just contact me!
I can print this larger, on the paper texture of your choice, and give you whatever silk brocade colors you want. It does take several weeks, but worth the wait if you want something really custom and unique.
This item was listed or modified
May 18th, 2017
Gary's random little things about China:
If you order Peking Roast Duck, you should do so only in Beijing, China (anywhere else, it's just not the same).
A hot tip: Always ask how long it will take before the duck is served.
If they tell you any timeframe less than 30 minutes, change your mind and order the Kung Pao Chicken (Gong Bao Ji Ding) instead.
The reason: If they can serve Beijing Roast Duck in less than 30 minutes, that means you are getting "pre-cooked" duck.
If you have to "duck the duck", next time look for a restaurant with ducks hanging over an open wood fire.