Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)


Eight Views of Women: Twilight Snow in the Sky over the River
(Shujo hakkei: Koten bosetsu)

signed Gototei Kunisada ga, censor's seal Kiwame (approved), and publisher's tomo-e mark (Nishimuraya Yohachi of Eijudo), ca. 1818-21

oban tate-e 14 7/8 by 10 in., 37.8 by 25.4 cm

A teenage girl squirms while trying to fend off a playful hug from a younger girl bending over her shoulder who has reached under her kimono to tickle her. Interrupted from writing a letter, her suzuribako (inkstone box) is open in the foreground and a brush rests beside a partially unfurled correspondence. She wears a subtle grey kimono decorated with sprays of pampas grass over a pattern of white butterflies, and a pink obi with a white geometric pattern and black edging. The fabric of her kimono is remarkably similar to that of a geisha depicted at her toilette in a triptych by Kunisada's teacher, Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825), which was likely published slightly earlier than this print. As geisha were considered the height of chic by the 1820s, this young woman appears to be following the latest fashion trends and Kunisada is 'on point' with the most up-to-date styles.

The theme of 'eight views' was adapted from a classical Chinese landscape grouping of 'Eight Views of the Hsiao and the Hsiang.' The Japanese landscape version, Omi Hakkei (Eight Views of Lake Biwa [Omi]), is a collection of eight famous views from the scenic area around Lake Biwa, which were frequently likened to beauties or employed in mitate-e (parody prints). While context of the landscape views were set with poetic references: Night Rain, Evening Bell, Autumn Moon, Returning Sails, Wild Geese Descending, and the subject of this print, Evening Snow, the specific locations were ever-changing as suited the needs of the artist (or poet). In this early bijin series by Kunisdada, the Omi Hakkei theme is alluded to with the series title of Shujo Hakkei (Eight Views of Women), loosely associating the images beauties with the landscape found within the Toshidama-shaped cartouche.

Kunisada Exhibition, The Seikado Book Library, 1996, pp. 28-29, nos. 15-18 (four prints from the same series)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.42866

(inv. no. 10-5358)

price: Sold

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Toyokuni I, Debut of a New Geisha (detail), ca. 1820s


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site last updated
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