This Woodblock print was our find at the D.C. Big Flea Market
We don't always come back with something. The joy of the hunt is as therapeutic as the thrill of the find. But it does help to make a discovery no matter how modest.
One of the regular local events giving us an excuse to get out and back home with half a day remaining is the D'Amore show in Chantilly, Maryland known as the D.C. Big Flea. It is not one of those higher end shows with abunant potential buys limited only by prices near or at full retail. Rather it is - mostly as the name suggests - a flea market though with a range of dealers and reasonably fair odds of finding a good value.
On this occasion, we came upon this woodblock print soon after arriving (more than 2 hours after the show had begun.) Immediately recognizing from the aisle the sensitivity and pose as a Japanese Buddhist monk portrait, closer scrutiny inside the booth (and the dealer's tag) exposed it for a woodblock print rather than a painting (which we were hoping for) though with sparse, painted details. But not recalling such a subject in this media, along with a reasonable price tag, led us to buy the print after a small discount.
We are by no means woodblock print experts (it is one area we have always been wary of given the obvious learning curve requiring frequent handling) but feel comfortable that this portrait is an unusual subject. Actors, courtesans and sometimes artists and samurai are subjects of woodblock print portraits. And some hasty research after bringing this home confirms that Buddhist monks are not among frequent portrait subjects in woodblock prints. It became clear with review that most woodblock portraits were memorials and some of historical figures. We cannot be sure whether this monk was a contemporary of the woodblock print artist or an historical person of note - possibly after a painting of the same subject.
The framed print retained old, dry and brittle paper sealing the back of the frame job which had obviously not been disturbed for quite some time. Once opened, we found the print's margins had been trimmed to the image area but that condition was quite presentable (note our description for a thorough accounting.) A label with vertical inscription in kanji was adhesed to the backing (we have not yet attempted to translate or secure a reading) which we are not certain if began life in the margin of this print or if added later. A small green stamp is adhesed to the back of the print. We have speculated the stamp may have been a tax (indicating some rate of 40%) or collection stamp - with a blue over-stamped number.
We hope you enjoy our sharing this and our story with you while we research this print ahead of a possible future offering in a Vervendi auction.