Keisai Eisen (渓斎英泉) (artist 1790 – 1848)
Hair-washing Day (Rokugatsu, Kamiarai hi - 髪あらい日) in the Sixth Month (六月): Michitose (三千歳) of the Miuraya (三浦屋内) from the series Four Seasons in the Pleasure Quarters: Annual Events in the Yoshiwara (Kuruwa no shikishi Yoshiwara yōji - 廓の四季志吉原要事)
10 in x 14.375 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print
Signed: Keisai Eisen ga
Publisher: Tsutaya Jūzaburō
(Marks 555 - seal 03-002)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Chiba City Museum of Art
Google maps - Yoshiwara Shrine - one of the only signs of where this famous district was
If you enlarge this print by clicking on it you will notice that the inset scene in the upper left shows there are two women preparing to wash the hair of the third women kneeling over an overturned tub. To her left (our right) is another tub with water in it and what appears to be the handle of a ladle.
Look closely at the obi and accoutrements of Michitose, who has attained the highest level of the prostitutes - oiran - of the Shin Yoshiwara. Her obi is decorated with hō-ō (the Chinese firebird or phoenix: 鳳凰) and the floral crest of the Miuraya house she worked for. The bottom of her obi is edged with a band in a deep blue also decorated with this floral motif. Her hairpins are also carved with these flowers prominently displayed.
"This pattern [the karabana 唐花] was imported from China and is not based on any one flower but is [a] constructed floral design." On the obi the karabana is enclosed in a kikko or hexagon design. If you look closely you will notice that not only are these 'flowers' printed in black, but also - far less easy to make out - in their reverse/mirror image.
The artist's signature appears on the far left of the bottom of the screen on the right. It is as though Eisen has signed a painting of bamboo in a windy, heavy rain.
There are 12 known prints in this series.
Illustrated in color in 浮世絵師溪斎英泉, 千葉市美術館 (Keisai Eisen: Artist of the Floating World, Chiba City Museum, 2012, #48, p. 73.
Tsutaya Jūzaburō (蔦屋重三郎) (publisher)
beautiful women (bijin-ga - 美人画) (genre)