Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

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Signatures and seals

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last updated: 02/04/14


The signature list is not complet, I´m sure I´ll find some more new signatures and variations of known signatures in the future. So the site has to be continued.

For a first step I had taken
the transcription and  translation for most of Kunisada´s signatures from: Jan van Doesburg, "What about Kunisada?", Dodewaard (NL), 1990. Other informations were from Sebastian Izzard, "Kunisada´s World", Japan Society, 1993.

Many thanks to Andrew Kowalczuk from whom I got new signature variations and who spent lot of time with the deciphering, new transcription and new translation of earlier known signatures. And also many thanks to Yasu Takano, Andreas Marks, Mariko Saiko, Wolfgang Hoehn, Bernd Jesse who added some precious informations for the writing and reading of some Japanese characters.

Thanks to Errol Lind for the new variants in 2014!
 

Kunisada was born as Tsunoda Shōgorō IX (角田庄五朗), called Tsunoda Shōzō (角田庄蔵) in the Honjo district of Edo in the year 1786 [Andreas Marks added the following information: >>The two characters of the family name 角田 can also be read differently. Izzard 1993, 20, reads it “Kadota” (however, Izzard 1980, 26, “Sumida”), and Netto 1966, 5, reads it “Tsunoda.” Japanese sources like Shindō 1993, 150, refer to it as “Sumida”, the same pronunciation that the writer Kanagaki Robun provides in his obituary of Kunisada, inscribed on Toyoharu Kunichika’s commemorative diptych<<. In 06/2010 A. Marks revised the reading of the kanji and corrected it to 'Tsunoda'.]
He entered the school of Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825), the leading actor-print designer of his time, around 1800 as apprentice in the age of fourteen. His first printed works began to appear in early 1807 and he was awarded the last character of his master´s name to form his own. So he choosed the name Kunisada.
In most cases the signature is followed by the suffix 'ga' [画] or 'hitsu' [筆]: 'drawn by' or 'designed by'. In some cases the suffix 'ega' [畫] was used ('picture by').

At first this signature 'Kunisada' was used alone (in some special cases this signature was used up to the 1830´s). 
The first eight examples read 'Kunisada ga' partially with different seals, the 9th 'Kunisada ega', the 10th and 11th 'Kunisada hitsu' and the last one only 'Kunisada'.


used as seal
 "Kunisada"
on Surimono


used as seal
 "Kunisada"
on Surimono

Or it was coupled with the 'Utagawa' [歌川] school name. The school name "Utagawa" has been in use on some prints just to Kunisada's death in early 1865.
No. 1-3: 'Utagawa Kunisada ga' [歌川国貞画] with different seals,
no. 4: 'Utagawa Kunisada hitsu' [歌川国貞筆],
no. 5-6: 'Utagawa Kunisada ga zu' [歌川国貞画図] with different seals (picture drawn by Utagawa Kunisada),
no. 7: 'zenpen Utagawa Kunisada ga' [前編歌川国貞画] (first part drawn by Utagawa Kunisada),
no. 8 completely reads 'ōju migi zu sha Utagawa Kunisada' [応需右図写歌川国貞] - by request, right image transcribed by Utagawa Kunisada (thanks to Andreas Marks for his help with this signature).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

On a very few early prints Kunisada signed with 'Toyokuni monjin Kunisada ga' (drawn by Toyokuni's pupil Kunisada).

From 1811 on Kunisada used different gō names which he added to his signature.

'Gepparō' [月波楼] 1811 - 1813.

'Kinraisha' [琴雷舎] 1813 and 1817?. This name comes from his father's poetry name Gokyotei Kinrai.
The signatures read "Kinraisha Kunisada ga" (1st, 2nd) respectievely "Kinraisha Kunisada ga zu" [琴雷舎国貞画図] (3rd) - picture drawn by Kinreisha Kunisada.

'Ichiyūsai' [一雄斎] (first use in 1811).  The name derived from Tani Sogai, leader of  a haikai poetry club, with which most of Kunsada's generation of students has been associated and whose gō name was Ichiyōsei. 
The first six examples read 'Ichiy
ūsai Kunisada ga' in different writing styles, the next four also 'Ichiyūsai Kunisada ga' with different seals.
The last reads
'Ichiyūsai Kunisada keihō ga' [一雄斎国貞敬], reverentially drawn by Ichiyūsai Kunisada (thanks to B. Jesse for his help). [The signature includes a kanji with is no longer in use today so it’s shown only as image [= +]].

For very special purposes the writing of 'Ichiyūsai' was done with the first kanji '式' which normally reads 'shiki'. Here it is 'ōju Ichiyūsai Kunisada hō ga' [応需式雄齋国貞画] - by request/demand, reverentially drawn by Ichiyūsai Kunisada. Thanks to Andrew, Andreas and B. Jesse for their help with the signature.

Two examples with 'Ichiyūsai and Utagawa'.

"Gototei" [五渡亭] was the mostly used gō name untill 1844. It literally means "Pavillion of the Fith Ferry" and refers to the ferry boat service owned by Kunisada´s family.
The first signature reads "Gototei Kunisada ga zu", the second "Gototei Kunisada zu", the third "Gototei Kunisada ega", all others "Gototei Kunisada ga" from earlier to later writing (left to right).


On some prints (c.1820), related to Osaka actors, the name of Edo ("Tōto") is added to the signature, probably these prints have been designed in Osaka.
"Tōto Gotoei Kunisada ga" [東都五渡亭国貞画] - drawn by Gototei Kunisada from Edo,
"ōju Tōto Utagawa Kunisada ga" [応需東都歌川国貞画] - by request/demand, drawn by Utagawa Kunisada from Edo.
The "Tōto" signature is also used on a painting of Ichikawa Ebizo V from around 1835, probably the orderer has not been from Edo/Tokyo.
"Tōto Kōchōrō Kunisada ga" [東都香朝楼国貞画] - drawn by Kōchōrō Kunisada from Edo.
Also from his stay in Osaka in 1821 is the signature "oite Ukabuse Kunisada ga" [於浮瀬国貞画] - drawn by Kunisada in Ukabuse (Ukabuse is the name of a famous restaurant in Osaka), this signature can be found only on a three print bijin series (thanks to Mariko Sakai and Wolfgang Hoehn for the reading).

On a very few prints a circular seal "Gototei" was used complementary.

"Kōchōrō" [香蝶楼] as gō has been in use from 1825 to 1861. It´s formed by the second character of Shinkō, the pseudonym of Hanabusa Ikkei, the master of the Itchō painting school, and the second character of Itchō which come from Hanabusa Itchō, the  founder of this school.
Six read 'Kōchōrō Kunisada ga' in different writing and shape, the next is 'Kōchōrō Kunisada zu' (image by Kunisada) and the last 'Kōchōrō Utagawa Kunisada ga'.

Other gō names used: 
"Kōchō" (1830´s - 1840´s), "Kōchō Kunisada ga" (1-3),
"Kōchōshi" (1830´s - 1840´s), "Kōchōshi Kunisada ga" (4),
"Hanabusa Ittai" (c. 1825 - 1865), "Hanabusa Ittai Kunisada ga" (5),
"Hanabusa Ittai Kunisada kin ga" (6+7) [英一[the kanji used for 'tai' is no longer in use, it's composed by 虫+帯]国貞謹画] - reverently drawn by Hanabusa Ittai Kunisada,
"Tōjuen" (c. 1830 on Surimono), "Tōjuen Kunisada ga" (8),
"Tōjuen" (c. 1830 on Surimono), "Tōjuen Kunisada ga" with double Toshidama seal (9).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

On some special prints in the late 1820´s a totaly different horizontal writing style with hiragana for the signature has been used.
The first example reads 'Kunisada egaku' [くにさがく] (picture by Kunisada) and the second 'motome fu yorite Kunisada egaku' [もとめふよりてくにさたゑがく] (drawn by Kunisada for the reason to answer a request).

 

Sometimes the signatures has a prefix like "ōju" (to satisfy the demand/by demand)), "ōkō" (to satisfy the taste) or "okonomi ni tsuki" (because of to satisfy the taste):

"ōju Kuninsada ga" (1-4),
"ōju Gototei Kunisada ga" (5, 6),
"ōju Kōchōrō Kunisada ga" with Toshidama seal (7, 8),
"ōju Kunisada sha" (9),
"ōju Kōchōrō Kunisada hitsu" with double Toshidama seal (10),
"ōju Kōchōrō Kunisada ega" (11) [応需香蝶楼国貞畫],
"ōkō Kunisada ga" (12),
"okonomi ni tsuki Kunisada ga" (13),
"okonomi ni tsuki Gototei Kunisada ga" with Toshidama seal (14),
"okonomi ni tsuki Kōchōrō Kunisada ga" with Toshidama seal (15),
"okonomi ni tsuki Kōchōrō Kunisada ga" with double Toshidama seal (16),
"gedai ōju Kunisada ga" (17) [外題応需国貞画].

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
 
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17  

and some other prefixes

"hanmoto no konomi ni tsuki Kunisada ga" (1) [版元の好ニ付] - because of according to the publisher's taste,
"hanmoto no konomi yorite Gototei (rest of the signature is missing)" (2) [板元ノ好よりて五渡亭xxx] - done by Gototei XX according to the publisher's taste,
"ni konomi Kunisada ga" - according to taste (3),
"konomi ni yorose (?) Kunisada ga" (4) - [好ニよろせ国貞画] - as it pleased the taste of Kunisada,
"konomi yorose (?) Kōchōrō Kunisada ga" (5) - as it pleased the taste of Kōchōrō Kunisada,
"kōno ni yoroshiku Kunisada ga" (6) [ 好ニよろしく国貞画] - as it pleased the taste of Kunisada,
"kōno ni yorite Kōchōrō Kunisada ga" (7) [ 好ニよりて香蝶楼国貞画] - done according to the taste of Kōchōrō Kunisada,
"konomi yoroshiku Kōchōrō Kunisada ga" (8) [ 好みよろしく香蝶楼国貞画] - as it pleased the taste of Kōchōrō Kunisada,
"konomi ni yorose (?) Kōchōrō Kunisada ga" (9) [好によろせ香蝶楼国貞画] - as it pleased the taste of Kōchōrō Kunisada,
"Kōchōrō Kunisada kin ga" (10) [香蝶楼国貞謹画]- reverently drawn by Kōchōrō Kunisada,
"Gototei funahito Kunisada X ga" (11) [五渡亭舟人国貞 x 画] - 5th-ferry-boat boatman Kunisada (thanks to Andrew for image and information),
"Utagawa funahito Gototei Kunisadsa ga" (12) [歌川舟人五渡亭国貞画],
"Bunsei jūsan tora-toshi ga sate Kōchōrō Kunisada" (13) [文政十三寅年画扨香蝶楼国貞],
"ko Hanabusa ō zu Kunisada sha" (14) [故英翁図国貞写] - copied by Kunisada after a picture of the late venerable old Hanabusa (Itchō),
"Sūkoku Kō hitsu Kōchōrō Kunisada hen zu" (15) [高嵩谷筆国貞編図] - by the brush of Sūkoku Kō, compiled picture by Kōchōrō Kunisada" (Sūkoku Kō: Japanese painter, 1737-1811),
"mōyōgetsu Kunisada ga" (16) [孟陽月国貞画] - drawn by Kunisada on the beginning of the 11th month. Thanks to Andrew for his help,
"konomi ni makasete Kōchōrō Kunisada ga" (17) [好ニまかせて香蝶楼国貞画].

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
 
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17  

 

 

 

After the death of Toyokuni I in 1825 Kunisada didn't become the head of the Utagawa school and the right to take over his master's name. Toykuni's family choosed Toyoshige, who had married into the family, as the new leader and he assumed the name Toyokuni (II). Toyoshige died in 1835 and it took still some nine years before Kunisada was allowed to call himself Toyokuni (III). S. Izzard wrote (p. 35), that "a print of early 1844 includes a statement by Kunisada that on the twentieth anniversary of Toyokuni´s death he vistited his master´s memorial and there was persuaded by Toyokuni's family to adopt the name".

From now on Kunisada signed all his prints as "Toyokuni". May be he used this signature occasionally before between 1828 and 1844 too. But for that the proof is missing.

In the years 1844/1845 Kunisada used the name Toyokuni with the additions "Kunisada aratme" (changning his name to), "Kunisda aratame nidai/nisei" (changing his name to the second), "Kunisada aratame nidaime" (changing his name to the second of the name), whereby he ignored the fact that Toyoshige has used the name Toyokuni for more than ten years and he was the third of this name in reality.

"nidai Toyokuni" (1),
"nidaime Toyokuni ga" [二代目豊国画] with Toshidama seal (2),
"ōju nidaime Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal (2),
"Kunisada aratame Toyokuni ga" (4),
"Kunisada aratame nidai Toyokuni ga" (5),
"Kunisada aratame nidai Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal (6, 7),
"Kunisada aratame nidai Toyokuni ga" in calebasse shaped cartouche (8),
"Kunisada aratame nisei Toyokuni ga" [国貞改二世豊国画] (9),
"Kunisada aratame nidai Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal (10),
"Kunisada aratame nidaime Toyokuni ga" [国貞改二代目豊国画] with Toshidama seal (11, 12, 13),
"Kunisada aratame nisei Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal (14),
"Kunisada aratame Ichiyōsai nidai Toyokuni ga" [国貞改一陽斎改二代豊国画] (15),
"Kunisada aratame nisei Utagawa Toyokuni ga" (16),
"ōju Kunisada aratame Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" (17),
"Kunisada aratame Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" misswritten signature [国貞改 with 二 instead 一 陽斎改豊国画] (18),
"ōju Kunisada aratame nidai Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal (19),
"ōju Kunisada aratame nidaime Toyokuni ga" (20),
"ōju Kunisada aratame nidaime Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" (21),
"Kunisada aratame Toyokuni hitsu" with Toshidama seal (22).
 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
               
21 22                

In the following years to 1850 only a few prints were simply signed as "Toyokuni ga" (1-5) or "Toyokuni hitsu" (6), sometimes accompanied by the red Toshidama seal.

1 2 3 4 5 6

At least one third of the prints in these years were signed "Kōchōrō Toyokuni ga", sometimes the signature is followed by the suffix "hitsu". On some certain prints this gō has been used alone as signature "Kōchōrō hitsu" as seen in the last example.

And the gō "Ichiyōsai" [一陽斎], instead of "Ichiyūsai" came in use and a lot of prints in these years were signed "Ichiyōsai Tokuni ga" (sometimes with "hitsu" as suffix).
No. 11 reads "Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ega" [一陽斎豊国畫].

1 2 2a 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

From 1845 on some more gō names were used by Kunisada: "Shōzō" (no example), "Fubo-Sanjin" [(富眺山人] (no example), "Fuchoan" (富眺庵), "Hokubaiko", "Yanagishima", "Eishū" and on a very few prints the old gō names "Gototei", "Kōchō" and "Utagawa" have been used.
"Fuchoan Toyokuni ga" (1, 1a),
"Rokujū hassai (at the age of 68) Fuchoan Toyokuni hitsu" (2),
"Hokubaiko Toyokuni ga" [北梅戸豊国画] (3) - thanks to Andrew for identifiying this signature,
no. 4 and 5: the kanji are国貞舎豊国画“ resp.国貞舎豊国“: Jan van Doeburg provides for the kanji “国貞舎 the reading as "Kokuteisha" which is a Japanese prename. Yasu Takano propose to read them as "Kunisada sute", "which literally means dropping (or abandoning) the name Kunisada'" and he continues in his email "If you add a part that stands for 'hand' to the left of the kanji character 'sha', the combined character becomes another sha, which means 'to throw away'." [= 捨].
Actually Bernd Jesse suggested the reading as “Kunisada toneri Toyokuni“ [
国貞()豊国画] - “Toyokuni’s retainer Kunisada“. It’s a reading which sounds plausible because the first use of this signature was around 1845 shortly after Kunisada changed his name to Toyokuni.
"ōju Kunisada toneri Toyokuni ga" (6),
"Gototei Toyokuni ga" (7),
"Kōchō Toyokuni ga" (8),
"Utagawa Toyokuni ga" [歌川豊国画] (9),
"ōju Utagawa Toyokuni ga" [応需歌川豊国画] (10),
"Utagawa Toyokuni ga" [宇多川豊国画] (11),
"Yanagishima Toyokuni ga" [柳島豊国画] (12). For no. 10 to 12 thanks to Errol Lind for his advices.
"Eishū inshi kan Toyokuni hitsu" [英舟隠士款豊国筆] (13) - the hermit Eishū singing (with): by the brush of Toyokuni (thanks to Mariko Sakai and Wolfgang Hoehn for the reading).
For no. 14 Mr. van Doesburg proposes the reading as "kyodai awase Toyokuni ga" (like brothers), but I think that´s not correct. The seal below the signature is 'Kunisada aratame nidai Toyokuni no in'.

1 1a 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
             
11 12 13 14              

Know prefixes are "ōju" (to satisfy the demand/by demand), "ōkō" (to satisfy the taste), "shimoto no ōju" (to satisfy the publisher's demand)  and "ōju sai" (to satisfy the demand again)

In spring 2005 I proposed for the reading of "梓元乃応需豊国画", transcriped by Mr. van Doesburg as "shigen no ōju Toyokuni ga" and translated by him as "drawn by Kunisada by special request of the publisher", the reading as "乃応需豊国画", meaning , "shi-e no ōju" (to satisfy the demand for woodblock pictures).
In spring 2006 I withdraw my reading!
Comparing the different writings of "" and "" used in other Kunisada prints, I came to the conclusion that the doubtful character has clearly to be read as "".
So the question still remains how to read the both kanji "梓元".
Shigeru Shindō, Gototei Kunisada: the actor portaits (yakusha-e no sekai), gives the hiragana transcription of  the both kanji as
あずさ
(azusa) and もと (moto). "Azusa" is the Catalpa tree and moto means "beginning; former time; origin", but the combination of "azusa" and "moto" makes no sense.
The reading of  "
"is also "し" (shi). Than the reading would be "shimoto".
The main reading of "" is "moto", another reading is  "gen" (when the character is used as stand alone kanji). It would make Mr. Doesburg's reading "shigen".
Anyway: no actual Japanese words, neither "shimoto" nor "shigen" are known.
The actual Japanese word for publisher is hanmoto (版元). Whereby "" is meaning "printing block; printing plate; edition; impression; label".
At a Japanese online dictionary I found for "
" the entry :〔中国で古く梓の材を用いたので〕版木(はんぎ) [(Using the material of the Catalpa tree in old China) the wood block (はんぎ) [= hangi = (printing) block; woodcut] and similar in a German dictionary: () : Druckstock {m}; Holzschnitt {m} (das Kanji steht eigentlich für den Trompetenbaum oder Katalpa; aus dessen Holz wurden die Druckstöcke angefertigt).

Note
: in 1894 Mr. T. Tokuno (
Chief of Insetsu-Kioku (Bureau of Engraving and Printing) of the Ministry of Finance, Tokio, Japan) wrote a booklett for the Smithsonian Institute with the title JAPANESE WOOD-CUTTING AND WOOD-CUT PRINTING. He stated: "THE WOODS USED AND THEIR PREPARATION. Although "tsuge," a variety of Buxus Japonica, or "adsusa" Catalpa Kaempferi var. Japonica, are employed, according to the degree of fineness of the written characters or pictures to be reproduced, the wood most generally used is "sakura," a variety of cherry. In all cases, however, the texture must be very fine and hard".

My conclusion: "shimoto" is the older term for "hanmoto" (publisher), the (for "wooden printing plate") is nowadays replaced by (for "printing plate"). And Mr. van Doesburg is right with his translation of "梓元" as "publisher".

On one single print I could find the signature "梓主乃応需 ….. 豊国画" (see no.13). "梓主" can be read as shiomo (principal of printing plates) or shiaruji (master of printing plates). The interesting fact is that also in a Japanese newspaper from around 1870 this term is used in the sense of "publisher".

"ōju Toyokuni ga" (1),
"ōju Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal (2),
"ōju Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal in cartouche (3, 4),
"ōju Toyokuni hitsu" with Toshidama seal in cartouche (5),
"ōju Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal (6),
"ōju Ichiyōsai Toyokuni hitsu" (7),
"ōkō Ichiyōsai Toyokuni hitsu" [應好一陽斎豊国画] (8) (thanks to Errol Lind for the signature),
"shimoto no ōju Toyokuni ga" [梓元乃応需豊国画] with Toshidama seal (9),
"shimoto no ōju Toyokuni ga" [梓元ノ応需豊国画] with Toshidama seal (9a),
"shimoto no ōju Toyokuni ga" [梓元応需豊国画] with Toshidama seal (9a),
"shimoto no ōju Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal in cartouche (10),
"shimoto no ōju Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" [梓元応需一陽斎豊国画] with Toshidama seal (11),
"shimoto no ōju Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" [梓元乃応需一陽斎豊国画] with Toshidama seal (11a),
"shimoto ōju Toyokuni ga" (12) (thanks to Errol Lind for the signature),
"shimoto ju Toyokuni ga" (13),
"shiomo no ōju Kunisada aratame nidai Toyokuni ga" (14),
"ōju sai ga Kōchōrō Toyokuni" [応需再画香蝶楼豊国] (15),
"ōju kyu(?)yu Toyokuni ga" [応需....友豊国画] - by demand for an old friend (?) (16).
 

1

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9/9a 10
 
11 11a 12 13 14 15 16  

some more prefixes:
"shimoto no kō(nomi) nimakasete Toyokuni gi ga" with Toshidama seal (1)
"shimoto no kō(nomi) nimakasete Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal (2),
"shimoto no kō(nomi) nimakasete Toyokuni ga" in Toshidama cartouche (2a),
"shimoto kō(nomi) nimakasete Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" with Toshidama seal (3),
"shimoto kō(nomi) nimakasete Toyokuni ga" (4).

1 2 2a 3 4

From around 1850 on allmost (but not all) prints have the signature enclosed in a Toshidama cartouche (the first use of this signature -yellow background in red Toshidama cartouche- can be dated to 1847 on a shini-e = memorial print). Just to 1860 the very most prints were only signed with "Toyokuni ga" in these cartouches, mostly red but also yellow, blue or green coloured.

The Toshidama cartouche and "Toyokuni ga" also has been used with different gō names: the two left "Kōchōrō Toyokuni ga", third and fourth "Kōchō Toyokuni ga", fifth "Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga", sixth and seventh "Ichi  Toyokuni ga"and the sixth "Hanabusa Ittai Toyokuni ga" [英一(虫+帯)豊国].

Some special sigantures:

No.1 reads "gedai Toyokuni ga" used on woodblock print books in the 1850's.
The next signature (no. 2) reads "hyōdai Toyokuni ga" used on the frontiespieces of sugoroku game sets in the 1850's.
From Andrew is the following information: >>hyōdai (表題) is nearly identical in meaning to Gedai (外題) both of which refer to the title of a literary or artistic work. Means "title", so my interpretation of these signatures is "Title page is Toyokuni's work" (a cover by Kunisada and contents done by his students under his loose supervision)<<.
No. 3 reads "jinbutsu (人物) Toyokuni hitsu/kizai Kunihisa ga" and is also from a gameboard.
For the meaning of this signature Andrew wrote: >> This means 'characters by Toyokuni' and 'implementation by Kunihisa', maybe one did the people and the other the background of the print <<.
no. 4: "okonomi ni tsuki jinbutsu Toyokuni ga".
no. 5a: "mei homare jinbutsu Toyokuni rōjin hitsu" [名譽人物豊国老人筆] (personalities of famous reputation painted by the old man Toyokuni).
no. 5b: 'konomi makase Toyokuni rō hitsu'.
no. 6: "Toyokuni gi ga" with Toshidama seal; for the 'gi ga' (戯 画) thanks to Andrew who added following: 戯 (gi) = joke, 画 (ga) = drawn by and meaning "a Toyokuni caricature",
no. 7: "ōkō Toyokuni gi ga" with Toshidama seal,
no. 8: "shimoto no ōju Ichiyōsai gi ga",
no. 9 is also from Andrew, it reads: "ōju Toyokuni gi no sha" [應需 (ōju) = by request, 戯 (gi) = joke, 写 (sha) = picture] - meaning "By special request, a Toyokuni caricature".
no. 10: "ōju Kōchōrō aruji (?) gi ga" [應需香蝶楼主(?)戯画] (by demand/special request, a caricature by the master Kōchōrō),
no. 11: "Toyokuni hojo" [豊国補助] (with the help/assistance of Toyokuni),
no. 12: "migi gojūyon jo Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" [右五十四帖一陽斎豊国画] - drawn by Ichiyōsai Toyokuni on the right of (a bundle of) 54 sheets,
no. 13: "ko zu o utsushi Toyokuni ga" [故図をうつして] - drawn by Toyokuni, done as a copy after a former picture.
no. 14: "shi koro ju ina kore to yurusasu Toyokuni ga" [梓之需いな之とゆるさす豊国画] - litterally meaning "it's not allowed to copy this printing plate, drawn by Toyokuni. Thanks to Errol Lind for the signature and to Mariko Sakai and Wolfgang Hoehn for the reading,
no. 15: "Toyokuni suichū ga" [豊国酔中画] - drawn by the somewhat drunken Toyokuni (thanks to Mariko and Wolfgang),
no. 16: "Toyokuni rōjin ga" [豊国画人物],
no. 17: "ni konomi Toyokuni hitsu" [任好豊国筆] (thanks to Errol Lind for the signatures).

1 2 3 4 5a 5b 6 7 8 9 10 11
           
12 13 14 15 16 17            

Some different styles of "Utagawa Toyokuni" after 1850: no.1 "Utagawa Toyokuni ega", no.2 "Utagawa Toyokuni ega", no.3  "Utagawa Toyokuni ga" (prefix not read), the next two "Utagawa Toyokuni hitsu" and far right "eshi Utagawa Toyokuni ga" (painter Utagawa Toyokuni).

1 2 3 4 5 6

Some different styles of "Kōchōrō Toyokuni" after 1850: first and third "Kōchōrō Toyokuni ga", second "Kōchōrō Toyokuni hitsu", fourth "Kōchōrō Toyokuni ga" (prefix not read) and right "Kōchōrō Toyokuni hitsu".

Some different styles of "Ichiyōsai Toyokuni" after 1850: the two left "Ichiyōsai Toyokuni hitsu", the third "Ichiyōsai Utagawa Toyokuni hitsu", the fourth "Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" and right "Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" (prefix not read).

On a few prints (1858/59) the signature is "Ichiyōsai hinashi (the little lion) Toyokuni ga" [一陽斎雛獅豊国画] (1, 2).
On the shini-e (memorial print) for his friend Hiroshige Kunisada signed "Omoi kiya rakurui nagara Toyokuni ga" (3) - designed by Toyokuni, shedding tears while thinking of him.
Also around 1858 on some prints the signature refers to Hanabusa Itchō: "Hanabusa Itchō ko Toyokuni hitsu" (4) [英一蝶考豊国筆] - by the brush of Toyokuni compared to Hanabusa Itchō and simply "Hanabusa Itchō ga" (5) [英一蝶].
And on one painting the signature reads
"Tōto Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" [東都一陽斎豊国画] - drawn by Ichiyōsai Toyokuni from Edo.

1 2 3 4 5 6

Know prefixes are "ōju" (to satisfy the demand/by demand) and "ōkō" (to satisfy the taste),  "ni konomi" (according to taste) and "shimoto ni konomi" (according to the publisher's taste),"shimoto ni konomi ni tsuki" (because of according to the publisher's taste).

"ōju Toyokuni ga" (1-6),
"ōju Toyokuni rō (老= old) hitsu" (7), "Toyokuni rō hitsu" (7a),
"ōju Toyokuni rōjin [応需豊国老人筆] (老人= old man) hitsu" (8),
"ōju jinbutsu Toyokuni hitsu" (8a) [応需人物豊国筆]",
"nin ju Toyokuni ga" (9), [任需 豊国 ] - with obligation to demand,
"ōkō Toyokuni ga" (10),
"ōkō Utagawa Toyokuni hitsu" (11),
"ni konomi Toyokuni ga" [任好豊国画] (12, 13),
"konomi ni tsuki Toyokuni ga" (14),
"shimoto ni konomi Toyokuni ga" (15),
"shimoto no konomi ni tsuki  Toyokuni ga" (16,17), [梓元ノ好ニ付豊国 ],
maybe another writing for "shimoto no konomi ni tsuki  Toyokuni ga" (18) [梓元乃好ニ付xx豊国 ],
"
konomi nimakasete Toyokuni ga" (19) [好にまかせて豊国 ],
"ni konomi Toyokuni sha" (20) [任好豊国 写].

1 2 3 4 5 6 7/7a 8 8a
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
           
18 19 20            

Before 1861 the signature gives the age of Kunisada only in a very few cases

"..... nanajū-sai Toyokuni shuku hitsu", (prefix unread) by the 70 years old Toyokuni draw with congratulations, with Ichiyōsai-seal (1855),
"nanajūsan-ō Toyokuni hitsu", drawn by the 73 years old Toyokuni (1858), seal unread.

From 1861 on Kunisada often gives his age with the signature

"nanajūroku-sai" and "nanajūroku-ō" (both 76 years old) 1861 - 1862, "ki-ō" (喜翁, old with happiness) and "nanajūnana-sai" (77 years old) 1862 - 1863):

"nanajūroku-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (1),
"nanajūroku-ō Toyokuni hitsu" (2),
"nanajūroku-ō Ichiyōsai Toyokuni shozo" (3),
"ki-ō Toyokuni ga" (4-6),
"ki-ō Toyokuni" without ga or hitsu (6a),
"ōju ki-ō Toyokuni ga" (7, 8), Yasu Takano gives following information: >>When the three kanji characters for the numbers seven, ten, and seven are placed as in images 7 and 8, they resemble the single kanji character 'ki' for pleasure (the corresponding English word is more like happiness rather than pleasure).  This is why the age 77 is often called 'kiju', and even today Japanese celebrate when they reach this age.  By the way, a similar play with kanji characters is made in Japan for the age of 88.  Three kanji characters for eight, ten, and eight (for 88) written very close to each other vertically can be read as a single character 'bei' for rice, with a bit of imagination. For this reason, the age 88 is called 'beiju' in Japan and is celebrated very much like the age 77.<<,
"ōju ki-ō Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga" (9) [応需喜翁一陽斎豊国画],
"ōju jinbutsu ki-ō Toyokuni hitsu" (10),
"jinbutsu ki-ō Toyokuni ga" (11),
"ki-ō Toyokuni hitsu" (12, 13),
"nanajūnana-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (14),
"jinbutsu ki-ō Toyokuni ga" (15) [人物喜翁豊国画],
"gedai ki-ō Toyokuni-ga" (16) [外題喜翁豊国画].

1 2 3 4 5 6 6a 7 8
 
9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16  

"nanajūhachi-sai" (78 years old) 1863 - 1864:
"nanajūhachi-sai Toyokuni ga" (1-3) [七十八歳豊国],
"nanajūhachi-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (4-8) [七十八歳豊国筆],
"nanajūhachi-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (9) [七十八才豊国筆],
"ni konomi nanajūhachi-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (10),
"nanajūhachi okina Toyokuni hitsu" [七十八叟豊国筆 - the 78 (years) old person] (11).

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 7a 8 8a 9 10 11

"nanajūkyū-sai"  (79 years old) 1864 - 1865:
"nanajūkyū-sai Toyokuni ga" (1),
"nanajūkyū-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (2-4),
"ni konomi nanajūkyū-sai Toyokuni ga" (5),
"ni konomi nanajūkyū-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (6),
"konomi ni tsuki nanajūkyū? (unread) Toyokuni hitsu" (7),
"konomi ni makase nanajūkyū-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (8),
"nanajūkyū-ō Toyokuni hitsu" (9),
"jinbutsu (characters by) nanajūkyū-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (10) (thanks to Errol Lind for the signature),
"ōju mae no jinbutsu (by demand the characters in the foreground by) nanajūkyū-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (11),
"ōju jinbutsu i nanajūkyū-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (12) [應需人物入七十九歳豊国筆] - by demand/request, inserted people by the brush of the 79 (years) old Toyokuni.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

"hachijū" (80 years old) first month 1865:
"hachijū-ō Toyokuni hitsu" (1),
"ni konomi hachijū-ō Toyokuni hitsu" (2),
"ōju hachijū-sai Toyokuni hitsu" (3).

1 2 3

Kunisada died in 1865, not in 1864 as it is given in so many books (and on websites).

The fact that some of Kunisada's prints are signed "hachijū-ō Toyokuni" -the eighty years old Toyokuni- is not the proof that he really went through his "birthday" on the New Years Day in the year of the ox. The signature might simply indicate the fact of a high dignified age.
Kunisada's deathday has been Genji I, 15th day of the 12. month, still inside the year of the rat, which is written on all shini-e of him. But this is the date after the Chinese/Japanese calender, translated to the western calender this has been the 01/12/1865 (thanks to Andreas Marks for information and data).
 

The last signatures!

On Shunga prints Kunisada used to sign with Matahei accopanied by gō names like as Fuki, Fukiyo, Bukiyo, Tocchosi (?) and Gekkiyo (after van Doesburg).

"Fukiyo Matahei" [不器用 又平 画] (1), "Bukiyo Matahei hitsu" (2), "ōju Bukiyo Matahei hitsu" (2a), "Bukiyo Matahei ga" (3, 3a) and "Tocchoshi (?) Matahei ga" (4) or simply "Matahei ga" [又平] (5, 5a) (thanks to Richard Simspon for the image). On a design for a shunga print "Kunisada hitsu" (6).
Also on shunga (no images): Ukiyo Matahei [浮世又平], Tsukiyo Kamahei [月喜代釜平] and Gepparo[月夜楼].

1 2 2a 3 3a 4 5 5a 6

 

If you have new signatures/variations or you can help to translate the unread signatures or you dedect some mistakes/bugs on this site please write to horstgraebner@kunisada.de

With the friendly permission of the author  all b/w images of the signatures were taken from: Jan van Doesburg, "What about Kunisada?", Dodewaard (NL), 1990.
This highly recommended book on Kunisada is still on stock at the gallery of "Huys den Esch" and can be ordered under
  info@huysdenesch.com

 

 

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Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III) - Signatures and seals