Utagawa Kuniyasu


Karaori of the Daimonjiya
(Daimonjiya nai Karaori)

signed Kuniyasu ga, with censor's seal Kiwame (approved) and publisher's seal Matsu (Matsumura Tatsuemon), ca. 1829

oban tate-e 14 7/8 by 10 in., 37.7 by 25.4 cm

The courtesan Karaori sits on a padded bench in front of a bamboo fence with blossoming cherry trees against a blue sky in the background. She is insulated from the crisp spring air under voluminous layers of clothing that billow around her in flat planes of patterns and colors. Her outer-kimono is black on the upper half with the white kikkoumon crest of her house on the sleeve, and the lower half draped behind her on the bench has a gold and blue rope pattern on the outside with muted purple and white kanzemizu (swirling water) toward the hem on the inner-lining. Her obi is tied at the front, as was the custom for a courtesan, and decorated with a geometric motif featuring the flower crest of the Daimonjiya house within a hexagonal grid known as kikko (suggestive of tortoiseshell). The long brocade panels part over her knees which are draped with a pink inner robe with a white shibori (resist dyed) star pattern known as Hanshiro-kanoko (made popular by the kabuki actor Iwai Hanshiro V, 1776-1847), parting to reveal additional folds of another layer of fabric (likely an expensive cotton imported from India) decorated with a complex circular Buddhist eight spoke dharma (wheel of law) pattern on a green ground. She holds an unusual long porcelain tobacco pipe decorated with a blue scrolling pattern, and her elaborate yoko-hyogo hairstyle resembling the parted wings of a buttefly secured with numerous hairpins and combs confirms her position as a ranking courtesan and style icon.

Originally the right sheet of a triptych, Karaori was accompanied by her fellow-ranking courtesan colleagues with Yosooi of the Matsubaya house in the middle sheet and Shirahara of the Tamaya house on the left sheet. Examples of the left and center sheet are found in the collection of the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, holds an impression of the center sheet and an impression of this image (shown together as a possible diptych) of the beautiful Karaori.

Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden, object nos. RV-360-2353a-1 (left sheet: Shiraito) and RV-360-2353b-1 (center sheet: Yosooi) no. 1883-01-01 (another sheet from triptych)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession nos. 11.16093 (left sheet); 11.16106 (this design)

(inv. no. 10-5362)

price: Sold

Utagawa Kuniyasu



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site last updated
October 3, 2022

Scholten Japanese Art
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