Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)


Hours of the Yoshiwara: The Hour of the Rooster, Sixth Hour of Twilight
(Yoshiwara tokei: Tori no koku, kure mutsu)

titled at the upper right, Yoshiwara tokei: Tori no koku, kure mutsu, with censor's seal kiwame (approved), signed Gototei Kunisada ga, and publisher's seal Kichi (Enomotoya Kichibei of Hoeido), ca. 1818-20

oban tate-e 15 1/4 by 10 1/8 in., 38.7 by 25.7 cm

A lavishly attired courtesan powders her nose in front of a black lacquer kyodai (mirror stand). Her inner purple and rose colored underrobes have floral designs, and her perfectly coiffed hair is embellished with numerous gold lacquer hair ornaments. Kunisada focuses our attention on her ornate blue uchikake (formal coat) spreading out behind her like a carpet and decorated with a distinctive shima (striped) pattern with alternating bands of purple stylized clouds and gold karakusa (scrolling vines) linked with tassels that are suggestive of kakuremino (cloak of invisibility, a treasure of the Lucky Gods). This unusual pattern may have had a moment in circa 1820 as it is also found on two print designs by Keisai Eisen (1790-1848), the first worn by another courtesan similarly draped from her shoulders, and a slightly later print portraying a young wife contemplating a similar fabric for use as an obi (a more sensible use of an expensive material).

In the pictoral cartouche above we see a vignette of a young woman holding a shamisen while standing beside a man ringing a bell at the entrance to a teahouse or restaurant. Identified by the series title and appropriately appointed with luxurious clothing and acoutrements, Eisen presents a behind-the-scenes view of the makings of a high-style courtesan of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters. A packet of Bien Senjoko face powder is situated in the foreground in an early example of product placement, associating this paragon of beauty with the popular make-up.

Robert Schaap, Kunisada: Imaging Drama and Beauty, 2016, p. 42, no. 4 ('The hour of thr ox, eighth hour of the night'- another print from this series) The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), accession no. 11.29901

(inv. no. 10-5074)

price: $3,800

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Above: Eisen, The Wife's Habit of Wanting to Wear Something as Soon as She Looks at It, ca. 1820s
Below: Eisen, Ishibe, Miyoshino of the Tsuruya, ca. 1821-23

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

kakuremino (cloak of invisibility, a treasure of the Lucky Gods)


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site last updated
May 25, 2023

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
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