Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokiuni III), 1786-1865
Eight Views of Edo Figures: Shinagawa
(Edo sugata hakkei Shinagawa)
each sheet signed Kochoro Kunisada ga, with publisher's seal of Tsutaya Kichizo and censor's seal kiwame (approved), ca. 1836-38
oban tate-e 14 3/4 by 29 1/2 in., 37.4 by 74.8 cm
This triptych incorporates an interesting combination of subjects. The composition itself is that of a trio of beauties standing on a wood verandah, perhaps at a restaurant or tea house. In the background is a low table set with porcelain and lacquer serving dishes, an iron kettle is placed on the floor and two sake bottles are off to the side. The slatted windows frame an ocean view of sailboats on a pink horizon. Two courtesans, identified by their elaborate clothing and hair ornaments, are accompanied by a geisha, who carries her shamisen in a black lacquer box.
The series title, Edo sugata hakkei (Eight Views of Edo Figures), refers to a popular landscape subject, Omi Hakkei (Eight Views of Omi), which was frequently employed as a framework for a comparison of beauties in ukiyo-e. The sailboats in the far distance could be a reference to Yabase no kihan (Returning Sails at Yabase). However, the pictogram to the immediate left of the title cartouche seems to add another layer of meaning: four (shi) + cabbage (sai or na) + river (kawa)= Shinagawa, While the Yoshiwara was the location of the licensed pleasure quarters, from the 1820s the neighborhood of Shinagawa (a much more accessible area) became more prominent due in part to its popularity with geisha and other entertainments.
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