Utagawa Toyokuni II (二代目歌川豊国) (artist 1777 – 1835)

Aizuri-e of a bijin reaching up to grab a branch of a flowering cherry tree, from the series Beauties of the Latest Fashion Compared with the Beauty of Flowers (Tōsei bijin hana-awase - 當世美人花合)


ca 1825 – 1829
10.25 in x 15.25 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Toyokuni ga
Publisher: Shimizu (Marks U283 - seal 16-079)
Censor's seal: kiwame
Brooklyn Museum
National Gallery of Victoria
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Lyon Collection - another example from this series

The title cartouche is prominently displayed near the top right of this print. It is in the form of a bat with its wings spread. The bat is interesting in that traditionally it often served as a symbol of happiness in east Asia - more so in China than in Japan, but not exclusively in China. Another curiosity is the use of butterflies on the woman's kimono. The butterfly is often used as a symbol of deceased souls. At the bottom of her robe is one dragonfly, a symbol of both Japan and more specifically the perseverance of the samurai.

The four examples from this series in the National Gallery of Victoria all focus on a different flowering group: the others are the plum, the bell flower and the chrysanthemum.
blue prints (aizuri-e - 藍摺絵) (genre)
landscape prints (sansui ga - 山水画) (genre)
beautiful women (bijin-ga - 美人画) (genre)
Shimizu (清水) (publisher)
bats (komori - 蝙蝠) (genre)