Modern Hairline Shaped Like Mt. Fuji: Night Hawk
(Tosei fujibitai: Yotaka)
signed Keisai Eisen ga, censor's seal Kiwame (approved), and publisher's seal of Sen'ichi han (Izumiya Ichibei, Kansendo), 1825-30
oban tate-e 14 5/8 by 10 1/4 in., 37 by 26 cm
A beauty standing beside a black fence and lantern, above, two bats in flight confirm that it is the evening. Turning away from a breeze pulling at her headwrap, she looks over her shoulder as though responding to a call. She wears a beautiful yukata (lightweight cotton kimono) with an indigo blue pattern of karakusa (scrolling vines) and peonies and a loosely tied black obi. The sleeves are pushed up past her elbows and the neckline is pulled open to reveal a flash of skin. Her pink underrobe is visible edging the collar and a layer of light blue lining blows away from her legs exposing her feet and ankles. She holds the flaps of her robe closed with her left hand, and her right hand grips a folded paper umbrella which will provide a modicum of privacy if needed.
This print is from a rather scarce series of which only five designs are recorded. The series title, Tosei fujibitai (Modern Hairline Shaped Like Mt. Fuji), refers to a hairline that grows to a point in the middle of a forehead, known as a widow's peak in English. True to form, Eisen portrays women from all walks of life, in this case, unabashedly identifying the woman as a yotaka (night hawk), a slang term for an unlicensed low-class prostitute. The koma-e (pictorial cartouche) shows an attendant carrying a chochin (lantern) lighting the way for a figure with his face discreetly concealed under his ho-kaburi (lit. 'cheek covering'). The pair approach a bridge beside a willow tree, identifying the location as Yanagibashi, a neighborhood associated with unlicensed entertainments. Of the four other listed designs from the series, two have proven elusive for comparison, Chaya (Teahouse) and Tegami wo yomu Bijin (Beauty Reading a Letter), while the other two, Chozubachi (Wash Basin) and Sanbashi (Wharf), also illustrate women wearing loosely secured clothing, suggesting a similar line of work.
Chiba City Museum of Art, Keisai Eisen: Artist of the Floating World, 2012, p. 79, cat. no. 59; Eisen Nishiki-e Index, p. 282, no. 35, 1-5 (other known designs)
(inv. no. 10-5434)
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site last updated
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Scholten Japanese Art
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