Expectant, The Appearance of a Fireman Wife of the Kaei era

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Thirty-Two Aspects of Customs and Manners: Expectant, The Appearance of a Fireman's Wife of the Kaei era [1848-1854]
(Fuzoku sanjuniso: jikitsukiso kaei nenkan anego no fuzoku)

signed Yoshitoshi ga, with artist's seal Taiso, carver's seal Wada hori Yu, and publisher's date and address seal Meiji nijuichinen, nigatsu, junika; Tokyo Nihonbashi Bakurocho Nichome 14-banchi, Tsunajima Kamekichi (Meiji 21 [1888], February 12) of Tsujiokaya Kamekichi of Kinkido

oban tate-e 14 5/8 by 10 in., 37.3 by 25.5 cm

Firemen were powerful agents in Edo life. The predominantly wooden structures of the sprawling metropolis afforded ample opportunities for companies of firemen to earn their keep, and similarly offered the chance to wield influence in the property and construction businesses. Their work was dangerous and firemen had a reputation for bravery and strength. 'Anego' in the title was a polite term with which one would address a woman of authority, suggesting that the wives of these men similarly attained a high regard.

The firemen wore distinctive, heavily padded coats which would be soaked in water before entering a fire to help protect them from the flames. One of her husband's coats hangs behind her, marked by the matoi (fireman's standard) of his firehouse. But the title, 'expectant,' and the anxiety evident in her expression indicates that he must have another and is currently in the throes of battling a blaze. In the One Hundred Aspects of the Moon series, Yoshitoshi designed an image of a Meiji-era firefighter amidst the kind of danger which his wife would have been nervously waiting out.

References:
Keyes 1983, p. 482, no. 503.9
Segi 1985, p. 93, no. 103.18
van den Ing & Schaap 1992, p. 140, no. 63.19
Stevenson 1995, no. 19
Akita Museum of Modern Art 1999, p. 45, no. 190
Ota Memorial Museum of Art 2009, p. 14, no. 1.19
Ota Memorial Museum of Art 2012, p. 141, no. 212

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