Torii Kiyonaga
Young Lord in the Company of Three Ladies

Signed: Kiyonaga ga; ōban, 38.0 x 25.5 cm; nishiki-e with karazuri and kimekomi

From ”Fashionable Beauties of the Eastern Capital”. This exquisite, perfectly printed sheet shows a young boy of social standing and two refined ladies under an umbrella, which is being held by a servant. The older of the ladies, perhaps the mother, is leading him by the hand. This valuable print represents the cornerstone of the Riese Collection. It is the first print he ever bought, acquired while on a research trip to Japan in 1928. It was always one of his favourites.

Provenance: Shiba, Miyanoshita (1928)
Riese Collection #60

In 1928, as a very young man, Prof. Riese took eight months leave from his legal duties in Germany to study and observe the administration of law in Asian countries. On his way to Japan he met the newly appointed German ambassador who urged him, while he was in Japan, to purchase a Japanese print. To encourage him, he gave him the address of several dealers from whom the former ambassador, Dr. Solf, had collected over the years and felt were thoroughly reliable. Visiting the hot springs in Miyanoshita in the mountains of Hakone near Mt. Fuji, Prof. Riese visited Mr. Shiba, then an elderly man. After expressing an interest in prints, and being served a cup of tea, Prof. Riese looked at prints for the rest of the afternoon. Among the two or three hundred prints he looked at, however, only one caught his eye; this elegant design by Torii Kiyonaga. The price? I am afraid it is not for sale, said Mr. Shiba. It is such a lovely design that I will keep it for my own collection. Perhaps another print?

At last, a price was mentioned which for the time seemed astronomical. Prof. Riese pleaded the truth, that he was a young civil servant, not a wealthy lawyer, and with some disappointment took his departure. The next morning Mr. Shiba sent a messenger to his room, asking him to return to the shop. The price was, perhaps, a little high. He could lower it somewhat. But wouldn’t Prof. Riese prefer another print, a Hiroshige for example? Prof. Riese explained again that only this print had charmed him, that Mr. Shiba was very kind, but that he must decline and say goodbye.

The following morning, shortly before his departure, the messenger returned once more, and Prof. Riese went back again to Mr. Shiba’s store. I have been thinking, the old man said. I realise how much you love this print, and I would rather you have it than some wealthier collector who would not appreciate it as much. Tell me what you can afford to pay for the print and I will accept your offer. After some moments of astonishment and confusion, Prof. Riese made an offer which he hoped would be fair to both parties. The offer was accepted. Dealers realise that the enthusiastic youth of today is tomorrow’s collector, and do what they can to encourage a genuine interest. Mr. Shiba’s gesture failed to benefit him directly, but he certainly prepared the ground for what eventually became a most remarkable collection.
Hirano knew this print only from the photograph on an impression in a French collection. Another impression is in the museum in Freiburg.

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 51.