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Fan prints

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Kunisada, like all of his contemporaries, designed a large number of fan prints. The greater portion of these portrayed actors. Printed fans were popular and inexpensive fashion accessories. As a result few have survived the wear and tear of ordinary use and today fans are the rarest of all categories of 19th-century prints.

Fan prints were either in the folding fan (ogi) or in the oval fan (uchiwa) format. All of Kunisada’s known fan prints are in the oval format, although he occasionally used the folding fan format as a framing device in standard actor prints. Kunisada responded to the challenge of the fan’s shape (and to other irregular shapes such as the battledore) with ingenious designs that make a virtue of the potentially awkward format.

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Organised for Japan 2001

The Fitzwilliam Museum is especially grateful to John Carpenter, Tim Clark, Paul M. Griffith, Hideyuki Iwata and Ellis Tinios for their generous help during the preparation of this exhibition.

Funded by Japan 2001