Kitagawa Utamaro Morning Parting

Kitagawa Utamaro, 1753-1806

Morning Parting at the Temporary Lodgings of the Pleasure Quarters
(Karitaku no kinuginu)

signed Utamaro hitsu, with publisher's seal Mori (Moriya Jihei of Kinshindo), ca. 1800

oban tate-e triptych 14 3/4 by 29 1/2 in., 37.5 by 74.8 cm

This triptych depicts a morning departure scene on the second story of a brothel. At the far left, three courtesans bid their goodbyes to customers descending the staircase. In the background, someone has left their toothbrush and bowl on the windowsill. In the center sheet, a beauty leans against a pillar and checks her morning face in a large hand-held mirror next to another who has locked eyes with a colleague to her right. A third, seated on the floor, reaches (not very inconspicuously) around the side of a male servant whose attention is on the handsome wakashu (young man who has not yet come of age) lingering languidly behind a mosquito net at the far right. A young woman attempts to slip him a letter under the scrutinizing gaze of another courtesan leaning out from behind a folding screen. Through the latticed window we see the pink flush of daybreak over the far side of the river. The proximity of the water indicates that the location is in the temporary lodgings (karitaku) to which the pleasure quarters would have been relocated when the main district was periodically destroyed by fire. A path leading up the embankment towards a distinctive stone torii gate is recognizable as that of the Mimeguri Jinja, located down the river closer to the mouth of the Sumidagawa.

Utamaro was noticeably adept at designing multi-panel prints comprised of compositions that connected, while at the same time functioning as individual vignettes. Each one of these sheets tells a separate story, and when assembled, they become greater than the individual parts. Unfortunately, it seems the strength of the individual compositions made it easier for multi-panel prints to become separated, and as such, intact and well-preserved Utamaro triptychs are particularly hard to come by.

For further discussion and comparison with another impression from the Honolulu Academy of Arts (in which the right hand sheet appears to be married to the center and left sheets, and the condition and color are not preserved as well as in this example), see Asano & Clark, no. 330. A further comparison with another impression (also unfortunately faded) is found in The Baur Collection, no. G79.

Exhibited:
Amsterdam Historical Museum, 2000

References:
Yoshida, Utamaro Zenshu, 1941, no. 559
Kiyoshi Shibui, Ukiyo-e Zuten: Utamaro, vol. 13, 1964, p. 36
Jack Hillier, Japanese Prints and Drawings from the Vever Collection, Volume Two, 1976, pp. 432-433. no. 456 (fold-out color illustration)
Ukiyo-e Shuka, vol. 3, 1978, listed p. 242, no. 465.1-3
Ukiyo-e Shuka, vol. 10, 1979, pp. 92-94, nos. 47-49 (Honolulu Academy of Arts)
Matthi Forrer, The Baur Collection: Japanese Prints, 1994, no. G79
Tadashi Kobayashi, Edo Beauties in Ukiyo-e: The James A. Michener Collection, 1994, pp. 60-61, no. 24
Asano & Clark, The Passionate Art of Kitagawa Utamaro, text p. 207, plates p. 171, no. 330 (Honolulu Academy of Arts, ex Michener Collection)

Collections (complete triptychs):
Baur Collection, Geneva, no. B104
Honolulu Academy of Arts, ex. James A. Michener Collection, accession no. 17153
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, ex Morris Manges Collection, accession no. JP3060
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, ex Spaulding Collection, 1921, accession no. 21.7700-2 (associated right sheet)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, ex. Liugi Chialiva and Fred Lieftinck Collections, accession no. 56:606

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