Floating World
August 7, 2008 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Viewing Japanese Prints is an encyclopedia of Floating World art (or ukiyo-e) and related genres. It has lots of images to go with the articles. Once you've gone through the site and familiarized yourself with pre-modern Japanese printmaking you might want to browse through the humongous image archive of Tokyo Metropolitan Library. Here are a few images that caught my eye: musicians attempt to keep a lady entertained, samurai pirate jumps into the water, crazed sea-captain wields very big axe, two samurais in combat, elfin man watches split-tailed cat dance while a giant feline stares angrily and giant toad belches up samurai while another samurai fights a gigantic fish and a third samurai observes the action from the banks of a river.
posted by Kattullus (15 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
If any Japanese-reading MeFites want to set me straight on what's happening in the images I linked to, here are their detail pages:
Sailor with axe
Confusing scene involving giant fish, toad and three samurais
Two musicians and a lady
Something involving cats
Guy with sword clenched between teeth jumping into water
posted by Kattullus at 11:11 AM on August 7, 2008

See, I think the toad is a metaphor for the human condition. I was like: I am a capitalist oppressor.
posted by echo target at 11:38 AM on August 7, 2008

Most of these are yakusha-e, or actor prints, describing scenes from the Kabuki theater. The two musicians in the first image behind the woman (actually an onagata, or female impersonator) would be part of the ensemble that provides on-stage musical accompaniment.

My kanji is not good at all, so I can't give you many clues to the actual scenes themselves, or the designers, other than to say that given the prevalence of blue, they were made in the early- to mid- 19th century. I'm guessing Kunisada is the artist for at least one or two (they're not ornate enough to be Kuniyoshi), although they could possibly also have been done by Toyokuni or even Shunto.

The two fighters are most likely the Shoga brothers, popular characters from a number of kabuki. The one with the cat could be an illustration from a ghost story or other piece of folklore.

All in all, they are nice examples of the genre.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:42 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sorry, that's Soga brothers.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:43 PM on August 7, 2008

19th-century ghost scrolls
posted by homunculus at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I also wish to know what's going on with the cats.

posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:08 PM on August 7, 2008


posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 1:11 PM on August 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Wow, this was worth it just for the bakeneko (thanks, psho!), but there's so much more... Another terrific post, Kattullus!
posted by languagehat at 1:56 PM on August 7, 2008

A Guide to the Ukiyo-e Sites of the Internet points to VJP first, and then goes on, and on, and on...
Thanks for this Kattullus!
posted by carsonb at 2:47 PM on August 7, 2008

Oh, and speaking of cats, Fashionable Cat Frolics.
posted by carsonb at 2:48 PM on August 7, 2008

posted by ikahime at 3:45 PM on August 7, 2008

Previous (link now broken) post. Also.
posted by tellurian at 11:51 PM on August 7, 2008

Man, Kattullus, you construct awesome posts. wow.
posted by nickyskye at 11:56 PM on August 7, 2008

Oh my. I love ukiyo-e with the heat of a thousand suns. Thank you for this post.
posted by lekvar at 3:05 PM on August 8, 2008

Adding to the ukiyo-e goodness:

Amusing flash animations of ukiyo-e images from a related post (tellurian , that link was broken earlier today but is working now).

Charming animated firefly.

As far as I understand, the comic versions of ukiyo-e images by Kuniyoshi are called giga-e. Here's an online collection of them.

More Fun with Raccoon Dogs [nsfw sort of, lol]

Fashionable Cat Frolics
posted by nickyskye at 3:41 PM on August 8, 2008

« Older Cluck?   |   Orville Schell on Chinese nationalism Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments