Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), 1786-1865
Courtesan with Client
signed Gototei Kunisada ga, ca. 1825
oban yoko-e 10 3/8 by 15 3/8 in., 26.2 by 39 cm
An evening view of a courtesan and her companion walking beneath a flowering plum tree outside a gated area. She takes a step forward while lifting the many layers of her kimono which exposes a saucy peek at her ankle and steadies herself by holding onto his arm. They turn to watch an older man with a large bundle on his back raise a stick up high to fend off two menacing dogs.
In the 1810s and 20s several artists and publishers started to produce horizontal oban prints that depict scenes of everyday life within the context of a landscape. Earlier ukiyo-e, unabashedly self-absorbed and devoted to exploring life's carnal pleasures and entertainments (both public and intimate) or idealized and humorous vingettes, would often logically remain within interiors where those activities took place, or if the subject was in an exterior setting, the figures would dominate the compostion with a few key clues to define the location. Landscapes as a subject unto themselves barely existed in single sheet prints. This developing format of smaller-scaled figures within a larger landscape (or townscape) was apparently popular enough to inspire competition and imitation, as several artists and publishers produced similar works. Very often the design was confined to the lower 3/4 of the sheet by a band of stylized clouds running across the top of the composition creating empty space in the upper area in a way that mimicked the format of the privately published illustrated albums of kyoka poems of the late 1790s and early 1800s which themselves were mimicking the mountings of a handscroll.
This early print by Utagawa Kunisada (apparently unrecorded) is one of only perhaps less than ten designs of this type that he produced during this period, some of which are known to have been published by Nishimuraya Yohachi of Eijudo around 1825.
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