Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

1786-1865

One Hundred Beauties from Famous Places in Edo: Naito Shinjuku
(Edo meisho hyakunin bijo: Naito Shinjuku)

signed Toyokuni ga within the artist's toshidama cartouche, and signed Kunihisa (Utagawa Kunihisa II, 1832-1891) within the inset landscape cartouche; with publisher's seal Jokin (Joshuya Kinzo of Shofukudo) and censor's date seal Uma-go (year of the horse [1858], 5th month)

oban tate-e 14 3/4 by 10 1/8 in., 37.5 by 25.6 cm

A beauty kneeling on double-layered futons holds a padded lacquer pillow on her lap while glancing to her right. She wears a loose-fitting beni-dyed kimono with a resist pattern of katawa-guruma (wagon wheel sinking in water) and nadeshiko (carnations) over a blue and black Benkei-goushi checked inner robe and a pale pink underrrobe with a crisp white collar decorated with purple genjimon (stylized crests from an incense game associated with The Tale of Genji). The futon covers with complimentary koushi (plaid) patterns on a white ground; the bottom layer with wide green with thin purple and black lines, the upper layer with wide purple and thin green and black lines. Mounded in a pile behind her are more textiles including a purple sash decorated with a white floral band, and a layer of bedding or a kimono decorated kagome (basketry), and roundels of seigaiha (stylized waves) and karakusa (scrolling vines) on a dark green ground with white stylized sparrows among bamboo and yellow and edged with a wide band of red.

This composition is from the large, collaborative bijin series Edo meisho hyakunin bijo (One Hundred Beautiful Women at Famous Places in Edo) by Kunisada and a group of his pupils. In this print, the inset landscape cartouche is signed by Utagawa Kunihisa II (1832-1891), a student and eventual son-in-law of the master Kunisada. By the mid-19th century, the Utagawa school was the dominant group of ukiyo-e print designers, and such collaboration within the school was not at all unusual. The location depicted in the landscape cartouche, Naito Shinjuku, founded in 1698 by a group of brothel owners to be the first stop on the Koshu Highway, was well situated as a center of prostitution. Named for the daimyo Naito, who's estate occupied the land used to found the town, Naito Shinjuku had a rather rustic reputation. In one scene of the kabuki play Kinkin sensei eiga no yume (Master Kinkin's Dream of Glory), an inured geisha compared the courtesans of Naito Shinjuku to "flowers blooming in the horse droppings of Yotsuya." This imagery became literary convention, as the Meiji haiku poet Naito Meisetsu (1847-1926) wrote "Ah, Shinjuku! On the horse droppings, morning frost."

References:
Henry D. Smith II et. al., Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1986, cat. no. 86 (re: Naito Shinjuku)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.15352

(inv. no. 10-2815)

price: $700


Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

detail

kikumon

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