Japanese Prints in the Museo del Prado (Estampas Japonesas en el Museo del Prado)

Asukayama hanami

Asukayama hanami


2013 marks the 400th year since shôgun Date Masafune sent the first formal embassy to Spain. To celebrate that, a number of activites have been organised in both countries under the name of “Año Dual España-Japón” (Two-way Spain-Japan year). One of them is a rare exhibition of Japanese woodprints in the country’s main paintings museum, the Museo del Prado (Museum of el Prado), in Madrid.
 

Technical data:

The exhibition is comprised of 26 prints, ukyo-e (浮世絵), from a collection of 50 that the museum owns. These were obtained in 1934 by the Museum of Modern Art (now disappeared) from the UNESCO exhibition in Paris, in 1955 and completed in the early 2000 by private donations. The prints shown are all dated in the Edo Period (1603-1868) and represent:

  • Every-day life (“Woman Gathering Ear Shells and Boy”, Ishikawa Toyonobu, circa. 1760)
  • Entertainment (courtesans) and Kabuki (歌舞伎) scenes (“Kabuki Theatre Scene with the Actors Iwa Hanshirô and Ichikawa Ebizô”, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, circa 1840)
  • History / Mythology scenes (“Contemporary Representation of the Secret Visit of Tamakuzara to Genji”, Utagawa Kunisada, 1857). Sometimes it is difficult to draw the line between history and mythology in Japanese past.
  • Sceneries (“View of Shinobazu Pond from the Kiyomizu Temple in Ueno” Toyohara Chikanobu, 1894)

Ukyo-e is translated as “pictures of the floating world”. The “floating wold’ usually refers to the calm, detached world of entertainment, devoid of worry, and pushes away responsibilities of the everyday world, such as work. As they are not drawing, but woodblock prints, which could be mass-produced already in the Edo period, they became both popular and affordable. There are three types of ukyo-e, according to the style and chronology: sumizuri-e (墨摺り絵), which used only black ink to create one image, benizuri-e (紅刷絵) in pinks and greens; finally the more ellaborated and colourful ones are the nishiki-e (錦絵).

Most of the prints in the exhbition are nishiki-e in bold and bright colours. In order to compose a nishiki-e, the artist uses several woodblocks, each printed in a different ink and with a different shape. When the woodblocks are pressed on the paper, one after the other, they create the final image. The Edo Museum, in Tokyo (Japan) shows how the prints were composed in one of its exhibtions. The lower row are the woodblocks and the upper ones are the impression they leave on paper:

Benizuri and nishiki-e in Edo Museum

Benizuri and nishiki-e in Edo Museum

Although the exhibition is small – barely half of the collection – especially in comparison with other exhibitions in the museum: 270 pieces in the adjactent “Captive Beauty. Fra Angelico to Fortuny”, it is a representative sample of the evolution of the prints in the Edo period, from the original black and white ones to the brightly coloured ones in more recent times

The Museo del Prado is huge and holds many masterpieces of western art, thus the price of the entrance is in my opinion justified. Unfortunately there are no separated tickets for the exhibition. That makes entrance 14€. However, one can always make use of the late-entrance free ticket – while two hours are too short for the whole museum they are plenty of time for the exhibtion.

The artwork exhibited is the following:

  1. “Daifukucho” (The actors Ichikawa Danjûrô I as Fuwa Banzaemon, Yamanaka Heikuro I as Dazainojo and Sodeoka Masanosuke as Fujigae performing the play ‘Daifukucho Sankai Nagoya’ at the Nakamura theatre in Edo). Attributed to Torii Kiyonobu
  2. “Woman Gathering Ear Shells and Boy”. Ishikawa Toyonobu
  3. “Chi: Musashi Plain. Pair of Hidden Lovers.” From the series “Tales of Ise’ in Fashionable Brocade Prints” (Fûryû nishiki-e Ise monogatari). Katsukawa Shunshô
  4. Children of Street Vendors (Tsutsu-izutsu). From the series “Tales of Ise’ in Fashionable Brocade Prints” (Fûryû nishiki-e Ise monogatari). Katsukawa Shunshô
  5. “Dance”. From the series Niwaka Festival in the Green Houses (Seirô Niwaka). Kitagawa Utamaro
  6. “Courtesan”. Kikugawa Eizan
  7. “Courtesan”. Utagawa Toyokuni
  8. “Scene of the Middle Class” (Chûbon no zu). From the series Three Ranks of Young Women According to their Fashions (Fûzoku sandan musume). Kitagawa Utamaro
  9. “Two Young Women with Fan” . Kitagawa Utamaro
  10. “The Actor Nakamura Utaemon in the Role of Kudô Suketsune”. Gosôtei Hirosada
  11. “Country Scene” from the series “Colours of Spring” (Haru no iro). Kubo Shunman
  12. “Kameido Temple” (Kameido tenjin). From the series “Famous Places in the Eastern Capital” (Tôto meisho ichiran). Katsushika Hokusai
  13. “The Benten Shrine at Shinobazu Pond in Ueno” (Shinobazu no ike Benten hokora). From the series “Famous Places in Edo” (Kôto meisho). Utagawa Hiroshige
  14. “Shinagawa Bay from Kasumigaseki” (Kasumigaseki). From the series “Famous Places in Edo” (Kôto meisho). Utagawa Hiroshige
    Two Young Women with Fan

    “Two Young Women with Fan”

  15. “Cherry-Blossom Viewing at Asuka Hill” (Asukayama hanami). From the series “Famous Places in Edo” (Kôto meisho). Utagawa Hiroshige
  16. “Inside Zôjô-ji Temple in Shiba” (Shiba Zôjôji sannai no zu). From the series “Famous Places in the Eastern Capital” (Tôto meisho). Utagawa Hiroshige
  17. “Kanda Myôjin Shrine” (Kanda Myôjin). From the series “Famous Places in the Eastern Capital” (Tôto meisho). Utagawa Hiroshige
  18. “Precincts of the Shiba Shinmei Shrine” (Shiba Shinmei Keidai). From the series “Famous Places in the Eastern Capital” (Tôto meisho). Utagawa Hiroshige
  19. “Station 33: Shirasuka, View from Shiomizaka” (Shirasuka Shiomizaka zu). From the series “Fifty-three Stations of the Tôkaidô Road” (Tôkaidô gojusan tsugi). Utagawa Hiroshige
  20. “Kabuki Theatre Scene with the Actors Iwa Hanshirô and Ichikawa Ebizô”. Utagawa Kuniyoshi
  21. “The Warrior Chinzen Hachiō Tametono”. Katsukawa Shuntei
  22. “Fireworks over the Ryôgoku Bridge” (Ryôgoku hanabi no zu). Utagawa Kuniyasu
  23. “Kabuki Theatre Scene with the Actors Ichimura Uzaemon XII, Nakamura Utaemon IV and Ichikawa Kuzô II”. Utagawa Kunisada
  24. “Contemporary Representation of the Secret Visit of Tamakuzara to Genji” (Tôsei Genji shinobu Tamakazura). Utagawa Kunisada
  25. “View of Shinobazu Pond from the Kiyomizu Temple in Ueno” (Ueno Kiyomizu yori Shinobazu no chôbô). Toyohara Chikanobu
  26. Sugoroku, 1 December 188?. Anonymous

The booklet is 100 pages, written in all three languages (Spanish, English, Japanese), and features every print in the exhibition, along with the explanations, and 17,5€ is a reasonable price for it.

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About Sakaki Delijah

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One Response to Japanese Prints in the Museo del Prado (Estampas Japonesas en el Museo del Prado)

  1. Pingback: Estampas Japonesas en el Museo del Prado | Mis Ilusiones Asiáticas

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