kentou 見当
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
The marks carved in all the woodblocks of a set needed to produce a full-color woodblock print *nishiki-e 錦絵. The printer today following traditional techniques (which probably are little changed from the mid-18c) lays a corner of the paper face down in "L" shaped ridge-and-groove, kagi かぎ with a square-headed kentou chisel *kentounomi 見当鑿 in one corner, just outside the carved composition. He aligns the sheet with a straight groove (often called a hikitsuke 引付) along a side of the woodblock in line with one of the legs of the "L". This ensures that each sheet, when rubbed from the back with a *baren 馬連 to make an impression, is printed without blurring or misalignment. Each color typically requires one impression, although over-printing with two different colors can create a third. Changes in the moisture content of the blocks or paper (caused by pigment saturation or change in ambient humidity) often require the printer to make small adjustments by re-cutting the kentou he Chinese developed the earliest registration devices for printing, and the earliest known Japanese printed-color illustrations are small private editions of haiku 俳句 poetry, haisho 俳書 dating from the 1730's. Presumably they required some sort of kentou to keep the colors aligned. Before this, printed images were monochromatic, and therefore printed from a single woodblock. Colors were only painted in by hand. The first single-sheet *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 prints with printed colors appeared in the late 1740's. Several unverifiable legends credit particular artisans (such as Uemura Kichiemon 上村吉右衛門 of the publishing shop Emiya 江見屋) with the invention of the kentou at around this time. But the idea may well have had no single inventor. The colors on the prints of the 1740's and 1750's remained limited. See *benizuri-e 紅摺絵. The earliest extant full-fledged color prints are several picture calendar, e-goyomi 絵暦 designs by Suzuki Harunobu 鈴木春信 (1725-70) for the year 1765. Between ten and twenty woodblock were needed to print full-color prints, nishiki-e so the role of the kentou was very important. 


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