Torii Kiyohiro
Quarrel over a Game of shōgi
c. 1755

Signed: Torii Kiyohiro hitsu; Publisher’s seal: Sakaiya (hanmoto); hosoban, 30.6 x 43.9 cm; benizuri-e

In front of a man casually reclining on the floor and smoking his pipe, two boys are fighting over a shōgi game. Next to the one on the left are the words: “Misete kudasare” (“Show me!”); the other retorts: “Naranu naranu” (“I won’t! I won’t!”). The heads of all three figures were removed and re-engraved in order to compensate for traces of wear, a common practice in the 18th century.

Provenance: John Mellor (Sotheby’s, London, July 1963)
Riese Collection #18

A young man, perhaps one of the boys’ father looks on as they quarrel. The boy at the left is saying misete kudasare, “Show it to me!” while his companion at the right is answering naranu naranu, “I won’t! I won’t!”. More interesting, perhaps, than the design itself, is the fact that the heads of all three figures have been removed, replaced and re-engraved. In the early 18th century when a block began to show wear it was a simple matter to re-engrave the entire block over again. In the middle of the century, a greater delicacy of engraving produced fine lines which tended to wear quickly, but the use of colour blocks made publishers hesitate to re-engrave entirely new key blocks for fear that the colour blocks might be out of register. It became a common practice then to take a fairly worn key block as this one is seen to be at its edges, and replace the faces. The resulting cracks and discontinuities were overlooked, or at least considered preferable to blurred and broken lines on the faces.

Reproduced in Ingelheim catalogue, no. 23