Keisai Eisen


Preparatory Drawing of a Standing Beauty with Blossoming Morning Glory Vines and an Untitled Cartouche in the Shape of an Illustrated Book

sumi ink drawing on paper, unsigned, with notations regarding colors, ca. 1830s

conserved on achival paper 15 3/4 by 11 in., 40.1 by 27.8 cm

This composition seems inspired in part by works by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) and Keisei Eisen (1790-1848), both were leading (and competing) artists of the bijinga (images of beautiful women) genre. The juxtaposition of a beauty against a spray of flowers is similar to Kunisada's Wild Carnation (Nadeshiko) from his circa 1825-30 series, A Contest of Beauties (Bijin awase) published by Moritaya Hanzo. And while the composed stance of this beauty with one of her feet turned very slightly inward is archetypical in ukiyo-e and easily found in many prints, the proportions of this figure seem to be influenced (arguably) slightly more by Eisen. For example, Eisen's circa 1830s print, Competition of Three Beauties: Mimeguri Embankment (San bijin kurabe: Mimeguri no dote), published by Izumiya Ihibei of Sen'ichi, is a classic example of the type. And an untitled Eisen (possibly earlier based on the signature) from the scarce series Appearances of Beauties (Bijin sugata) published by Kawaguchiya Shozo of Shoeido, illustrates an even closer comparison with nearly the same outline with similar rounded folds on her kimono and a closer match to the hairstyle. Kawaguchiya Shozo was a relatively small publisher that issued four titled series by Eisen and two by his student Teisai Sencho (active ca. 1830-50).

Although we have yet to identify a corresponding print or series for this design, it was discovered within a small collection of preparatory works, some of which were matched directly to published prints by Kunisada, Sencho, and Eisen--to whom this drawing seems attributable in comparison with two other identified Eisen drawings in the group.

Andreas Marks, Publishers of Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Compendium, 2011, pp. 197-198 (on Kawaguchiya Shozo)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, accession no. 34.451 (Kunisada)
(inv. no. 10-2694)

price: $1,500

Keisai Eisen

Kunisada, Contest of Beauties: Wild Carnation, ca. 1825-30

Keisai Eisen

Eisen, Appearance of Beauties, ca. 1830s


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