歌川國芳 Utagawa Kuniyoshi（1798－1861）
Iwamurada, from the series of Sixty-Nine Post Stations of the Kisokaido
木版画｜纵绘大判｜35.2cm x 24.5cm
Woodblock-print｜Oban tate-e｜ 35.2cm x 24.5cm
Pristine condition with strong color.
The "Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaido" is a fascinating Kuniyoshi series. The Kisokaido was the "Mountain Highway" that connected Edo and Kyoto, much of it passing through the Kiso Valley, and the 69 stations were the post towns along the way, where travellers could stop to rest, enjoy local specialties and engage in more carnal pursuits. With Edo and Kyoto included, there are 71 prints in this series.
But Kuniyoshi, who was known for his unique vision and creativity, did not take the usual path with these designs. Rather than focus on the landscape, as his contemporaries Hiroshige and Eisen did, he made the main subject of each print a historical or imaginary legend related to the local area. The landscape itself was relegated to a small inset on the upper left.
This one depicts a woman with great power in the late Heian period named "Dajingzi." The story goes like this: angry because their fields did not receive enough water, villagers stopped diverting water to Dajingzi's field. She was furious, and in the middle of the night carried a six- or seven-foot boulder and placed it across the outlet, diverting the water that had originally flowed to other people's fields. The villagers saw this boulder the next morning and were shocked to learn it was the work of Dajingzi alone -- it was so heavy that at least 100 men would have been needed to move it. In the end, the villagers agreed to water Dajingzi's field if she would just, please, remove the giant boulder. Later that night she did so. This stone representing the power of women still exists today, inscribed with the words, "This stone is the mouth stone of Dajingzi."
Dajingzi's calm and cool expression in the print contrasts sharply with that of a few big men who are frightened and pissed off. I love their expressions. So funny.