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Kikugawa Eizan

1: Yoshiwara Courtesan

A ranking courtesan and a young customer are enveloped by layers of robes and brocades, a porcelain planter with blooming plum blossoms at the upper left.

The poem at the upper left reads:

To none other than you
Is the scent of the plum blossom
Given to smell;
The color and the fragrance
Known only to you

Plum blossoms are associated with early spring and new beginnings, such as the loss of virginity. Apparently this is the first time for the young man who is overwhelmed by the encounter: "'The Tale of Genji' tells everything of the beauty of Lady Murasaki, but you are just as beautiful, above comparison to even the moon or the flowers. When I look at your figure and your dress, it seems to me that you are the finest in the world."

Kikugawa Eizan, 1787-1867

Selections from the Brocade Quarter
(E-awase Kinkaisho)

complete set of twelve oban prints: with lavish color and metallic printing, ca. 1815

each oban yoko-e approximately 10 1/8 by 14 5/8 in., 25.7 by 37.2 cm

Eizan was the son of a fan and artificial flower manufacturer in Edo. He studied with Kano school and Shijo school teachers, and was also greatly influenced by Hokusai (cat. no. 39), but his primary stimulus was Utamaro (cat. nos. 37-38). Like Utamaro, during his time Eizan became the leading designer of bijin-ga (images of beautiful women), establishing a distinctive style identified as eizangao ('Eizan face').

This luxurious set of prints exemplifies Eizan's ability to balance composition with seemingly overwhelming use of color and pattern. Although the central erotic element is still emphasized, he simultaneously seduces the eye with other visual pleasures.

References:
Fukuda, Ukiyo-e no higi ga, 1978, pp. 107-110
Hayakawa, Forbidden Images- Erotic Art from Japan's Edo Period, 2002 (dialogue translations)
Uhlenbeck and Winkel, Japanese Erotic Fantasies: Sexual Imagery of the Edo Period, 2005, pp. 152-153 (nos. 8 and 12)
Calza, Poem of the Pillow and Other Stories, 2010, pp. 405-413

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site last updated
May 29, 2020

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