Artist: Utagawa Kunisada II (二代歌川国貞)

Print: Bijin watching geese flying across the full moon -
Tōsei bijin soroe no uchi (當盛美人揃之内)

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Dates: created,1855
Dimensions: Overall dimensions

Signed: Baichōrō Kunisada ga
Publisher: Ebisuya Shōshichi (Marks 039 - seal 26-007)
Date seal: 12/1855
Censor's seal: aratame

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Tokyo Metropolitan Library; Lyon Collection - another print from this series;Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - another print from this series; Tokyo Metropolitan Library - another print from this series; Tokyo Metropolitan Library - and yet another print from this series; National Museums of Scotland;

Physical description:

A courtesan seated on the yellow and gray matted floor of a restaurant. The floor pattern is most likely something adopted from the use of Western perspective. She is holding a long, decorative pipe or kiseru. There is a teapot in the lower left sitting atop a small hibachi. A single blue and white tea cup is sitting on the ground in front of her near a bowl of recently delivered food. While most of the food is unidentifiable it does appear that there are three slices of tofu still grouped together. (Tofu does not appear in many prints.) Next to that is a Japanese tiered food box or jubako with a lacquered decoration which probably is the crest of the restaurant. Along the right lower edge is a tray with three saké cups still placed downward, as though her client or clients had yet to arrive.

Notice,using the tool for enlarging this print, that there is one hairpin with a flying crane descending like the geese seen flying near the full moon. On the left side of her face is a wisp of hair hanging down near her comb. This, plus her pose, adds of sense of relaxed naturalness to this scene.

One of her robes displays the asanoha or hemp pattern. Her obi and blue and white undergarment are covered with interlaced swastikas. Near her exposed right lower leg is the red undergarment which the Japanese public found so erotic and enticing.

It must be springtime because of the cherry blossoms in the middle ground.

Look closely at the gray sky and the blue of the river and you will notice a prominent use of the natural woodgrain. This effect was intentional. The color appear to be nearly as perfect as the day this print was offered for sale in 1855. A great deal of thought and care was put into the production of this print.


Notes at the Tokyo Metropolitan Library note that this setting is in a restaurant in the red light district.


We have found at least nine different prints from this series at the Museums of Scotland web site online. One interesting thing to note is that there were at least two different editions of this print from the Lyon Collection. You will be able to see this by clicking on the link above to a similar print in Scotland. They are the same in every way, except the example in Scotland has an extra cartouche added near the title cartouche. In fact, four different prints in that collection have similar additional identifying cartouches... which it should be pointed out do not appear on each edition of those particular prints. (JSV)