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Wakaume of the Tamaya in Edo-machi itchôme, kamuro Mumeno and Iroka (Edo-machi itchôme, Tamaya uchi Wakaume Mumeno Iroka) 江戸町壱丁目 玉屋内 若梅 むめの いろか

Identifier: 1793ca Utamaro Wakaume
Description:
The print Courtesan Wakaume from the Tamaya is a definitive masterpiece of Utamaro.

Courtesan Wakaume from the Tamaya in Edomachi 1-chome (c. 1793-1794). Hair heavy with golden pins, the stunning Wakaume turns her head to glance behind her. She belongs to the highest rank of courtesan, the zashiki-mochi, or "havingpher-own-suite" rank in the Yoshiwara's Tamaya brothel. Though the cartouche identifies two kamuro, or child attendants, only one can be seen peeking out from behind Wakaume's peach-colored kimono. One cartouche identifies the members of the scene, while a second cartouche presents a kyoka, or "comical poem," by Hachi no Nanko. The verse celebrates the famous beauty Wakaume (若梅, literally young plum):

白むくのWhite
雪のうちよりFrom the snow
咲いでゝBlossoming
名もかうばしきEven her name
若梅の花Wakaume flower

The work boasts good color, very good impression and state, but the luxury of this printing rests in the pink mica ground. This iridescent background enhances the elegance of the high-ranking beauty and Utamaro's exquisite composition. Printed straight to the paper, the ground mica created a silver-white surface, yet the printer could manipulate this effect by printing a color beneath the mica. In the case of Utamaro's Wakaume from Tamaya, the iridescent pink likely resulted from the under printing of a safflower rose. As mica is particularly vulnerable to humidity and handling, it is stunning that the mica ground remains so beautifully intact on this print.

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