Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) (artist 1786 – 01/12/1865)
Three beauties on their way to an assignation
29.625 in x 13.625 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print
Signed: Gototei Kunisada ga
Publisher: Mikawaya Seimon
(Marks 328 - seal 16-011)
Censor's seal: aratame
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - left panel only
The woman on the right is carrying a box containing a musical instrument. She is probably a geisha and the instrument is probably a shamisen. The lantern she is holding to light the way has characters on it which may well advertise the name of a famous restaurant or tea house. They often do.
That same woman is wearing an interesting outfit. If you use the enlargement tool you will notice that there are stylized bats (and gourds among other things) in roundels on her robe. This is made more significant by the decoration of a carved bat on her kanzashi or ornamental hairpin. The blackish spotted hair ornaments are all meant to represent very expensive tortoiseshell items.
The woman in the middle panel has a hairpin decorated with a simple flower and on her brownish outer robe are stylized butterflies. The woman on the left has two hairpins with stylized sparrows in flight and one hairpin with a floral decoration.
One more point: in the title line above we said that these women are on their way to an assignation, but, of course, they could be on their back from one. Without an explicit printed text telling which it is we have no way of knowing.
For a related print on the same theme see the earlier print by Eizan in the Lyon Collection, #729.
Mikawaya Seiemon (三河屋清右衛門) (publisher)
beautiful women (bijin-ga - 美人画) (genre)
bats (komori - 蝙蝠) (genre)