Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I (初代歌川豊国)

Print: View of the front of the Mieidō [御影堂] Fan Shop - the right-hand panel of a triptych

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Dates: created,circa 1808
Dimensions: Overall dimensions

Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊国画)
Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi
(Marks 391 - 23-016)

Related links: British Museum - the full triptych;

Physical description:

The woman in the background is painting a fan using ink only, i.e., a sumi-e. On the fan is a dragon with three claws appearing out of the clouds. Nearby are other ink-painted fan designs. One is a bird, possibly a raven in flight, a group of pine trees and another fan decorated with bamboo. The woman in front is folding the paper for the fans.

Another subtle little touch is the folded fan, partially hidden from view, as part of the decoration of the woman who is doing the paintings.

The term 'mieido' is integrally tied to fan shops in Japan and to references made in Edo literature and on the stage. Basil Hall Chamberlain wrote in 1905: "The Japanese pride themselves on being the inventors of the folding fan, which they assert to have been borrowed from them by the Chinese as late as the time of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). A noble lady, widow of the youthful hero Atsumori, is credited with the idea. At the temple of Mieido in Kyoto, whither she had retired to hide her grief under the garb of a nun, she cured the abbot of a fever by fanning him with a folding fan made of paper, over which she muttered incantations; and to the present day the priests of this temple are considered special adepts in the manufacture of fans, whence the name of Mieido adopted by many fan-shops all over the country."


The characters on the noren (?) along of the top of the print read: すゑひろや.


The full triptych is illustrated in color in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections: British Museum II, #226.

The English supplement to this volume states: "Mieidō fans were one of the specialties of Kyōto during the Edo period. The picture probably depicts the Edo Mieidō shop. Toyokuni also produced an ōban triptych depicting the same shop in the early Kansei era (1798-1801). Both works are thought to have been published and partly funded by the shop."