Thirty-Two Physiognomic Types in the Modern World: The Popular Type
(Tosei sanjuni so: Hayari so)
signed Gototei Kunisada ga with artist's Matsukawabishi with Toshidama seal, censor's seal Kiwame (approved), and publisher's seal Ju (Nishinomiya Shinroku of Gangetsudo and Shunshoken), ca. 1821-22
oban tate-e 14 7/8 by 10 in., 37.8 by 25.4 cm
A woman holding a black lacquer mirror case in one hand and a make-up brush in the other, carefully smudges her eyebrow make-up with her pinky finger. She wears an indigo blue katabira (lightweight summer kimono) decorated with a profusion of white cherry blossoms and kanoko (fawn spots) on the beni-dyed red lining loosely tied with a black obi. The weather must be warm as she has pushed her sleeves up above her elbow and the neckline is open wide to try to keep cool. Her a hair is simply coiffed with only one silver hairpin adorned with an attached ornament in the shape of a dragonfly. The clarity of her exposed skin is emphasized by the pink background.
The series title, Thirty-Two Physiognomic Types in the Modern World (Tosei sanjuni so), references the Buddhist belief that thirty-two physical traits distinguished the Buddha as an enlightened being. A similar concept was embraced in the practice of physiognomy (sogaku or soho), the study of divining a person's fortune or character based on facial features and/or palm reading. In c. 1792-93, Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806) presented two overlapping series organizing a smaller group of ten characteristics of women: Ten Types in the Physiognomic Study of Women (Fujin sogaku juttai), and Ten Classes of Women's Physiognomy (Fujo ninso juppan). This series by Kunisada follows a similar format, while the title indicates thirty-two types, a total of ten prints were produced, presenting half-length portraits of a variety of women of different ages, lasses, and professions, all against a pink background. Each type is identified in the cartouche in the shape of a magnifying glass as were used by professional physiognomists (somi), in addition to this Popular Type (who may be a popular geisha), Kunisada presented: The Capable Type, The Competitive Type, The Clever Type, The Theater-Loving Type, The In-Demand Type, The Playful Type, The Daughter of a High-Ranking Family, The Type That Attracts Clients from Edo, and the Conclusive Type.
Shugo Asano and Timothy Clark, The Passionate Art of Kitagawa Utamaro, 1995, text vol., pp. 100-103, cat. nos. 56-64 (Utamaro's 'Ten Types' series)
Kunisada Exhibition, The Seikado Book Library, 1996, pp. 45-47, nos. 59-64 (six prints from the same series) Utagawa Kunisada: 150th Anniversary of His Death, Ota Memorial Museum of Art, 2014, p. 88, no. 96
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (collections.mfa.org), accession no. 34.490
(inv. no. 10-5351)
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