Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) (artist 1786 – 01/12/1865)
'A Geisha in her Dressing Room' (Mijimai geisha - 身じまい芸者) from the series 'A Collection of Modern Beauties' (Tōsei bijin awase - 當 世美人合)
10.25 in x 14.75 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print
Signed: Gototei Kunisada ga
Publisher: Moritaya Hanzō
(Marks 352 - seal 23-026)
Censor's seal: kiwame
Honolulu Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Hagi Uragami Museum of Art
National Diet Library
Ritsumeikan University - in black and white
Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna
Lyon Collection - 'Sudden Shower' - another print from this series
Lyon Collection - 'Dance teacher' - another print from this series
Ackland Museum of Art, University of North Carolina "I'm so attracted to her blue-tinted reflection in her hand mirror." [This is a direct quote by Mike Lyon, the owner of this print.]
Sebastian Izzard wrote of this print in Utagawa Kunisada: His World Revisited: "Women in front of makeup mirrors was a theme first explored by ukiyo-e artists in the eighteenth century... Here the presence of the makeup stand is implied rather than visible, its only indication being the porcelain cup with white powder at bottom left. This beautiful woman is checking the application of her skin powder in a hand mirror held behind her, which reveals the nape of the neck - considered a highly erogenous zone in Edo Japan for its resemblance to the shape of Mt. Fuji."
In the fan cartouche shown above her is the geisha's shamisen along with a round box which holds extra strings for this instrument. [It should be noted that in a lecture, 'The Poetics of Inscribed Kabuki Actor Prints', viewable on YouTube, by John T. Carpenter said that the three-string shamisen was "the most common instrument of the Yoshiwara brothels as well as kabuki and among geisha."]
Izzard continues: "A characteristic of Kunisada's drawing style at the period are the covert sexual messages, seen here: her loose robe decorated with cherry blossom [sic] draped around her shoulders; the glimpse we are given of her red underwear... Her hair is dressed in the high Shimada style, featuring a small shaven patch behind the forelock, rendered in pale blue to suggest stubble, which was particularly popular at the time.
As with many Kunisada beauty prints, precise dating is impossible. Kunisada often used successful earlier images, and here the composition is based on a fan he made for Maruya Kyūbei that is seal dated 1827..." That image differs somewhat, but the model is also wearing a robe decorated with cherry blossoms.
"Ten prints from this series of half-length portraits of beauties are known. Five sheets are signed with the name Kōchōrō Kunisada... while the other five have Gototei Kunisada... His toshidama seal frames the series title cartouche and the print title is contained within a stylised 'decayed tree branch' (kuchiki) design."
Quoted from: Kunisada: imaging drama and beauty by Robert Schaap, p. 55.
1. In a full-page color reproduction in 歌川国貞:美人画を中心に, (Utagawa Kunisada : bijinga o chūshin ni - Utagawa Kunisada: Focusing on Pictures of Beautiful Women), published by Seikado Bunko,), 1996, #91, p. 59.
2. UkiyoeTakei, vol. 10 [Kunisada], published by Shueisha., Tokyo. A detail from this print is illustrated on the front of this volume.
Loosely translated UkiyoeTakei could be 'A Survey of Ukiyo-e'.
3. In color in a small reproduction, #71, on page 160 of Kunisada: Imaging Drama and Beauty.
4) In a full page color reproduction in Utagawa Kunisada: His World Revisited by Sebastian Izzard, cat. #28, text on page 102, image on page 103, 2021.
There is another copy of this print in the collection of the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina.
Moritaya Hanzō (森田屋半蔵) (publisher)
beautiful women (bijin-ga - 美人画) (genre)