Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) (artist 1786 – 01/12/1865)

The Style of a Geisha: San'en (San'en geisha fū) from the series Famous Places of Edo (Edo meishō - 江戸名所)


ca 1824 – 1825

Signed: ōju (by special request)
Kunisada ga (應需国貞画)
Publisher seal: Mikawaya Seiemon
Censor's seal: kiwame
Museum of Oriental Art, Venice (via Ritsumeikan University)

Sebastian Izzard, speaking of this series in his Kunisada's World (p. 92), says: "This elaborately engraved and printed series features eight women from the various districts of Edo, each separated from the landscape background by waist-high stylized clouds, a device Kunisada used often. The images were probably printed from a larger block, four to a sheet, and later divided. This explains the lack of seals and publisher's marks on all but two of the designs. There may also be a missing sheet of four images, making a set of beauties of the twelve months, a common theme. The women wear the latest fashions and come from all walks of life. The backgrounds, which depict the areas where they live and work, include Western-style perspective, cumulus clouds, and volumetric modeling through shading. The series also features a blue known in Japan as bero-ai (Berlin blue), a synthetic pigment newly imported by the Dutch. At first it was used only sparingly, probably because it was scarce and therefore expensive.

The series is datable on the basis of its stylistic similarity to Kunisada's cover for a novel by Ichikawa Danjūrō entitled Edo nishiki Sōchō soga and dated Spring 1824, and to a set of three fans seal-dated 8/1825... One has a Western-style background, and both feature a distinctive figure style and the new blue pigment.... The "Famous Places of Edo" probably appeared as a luxury publication for the spring of 1825.

[In this print] a young geisha wears a robe of light and dark blue stripes decorated with white bats, bamboo leaves and auspicious objects. The lining has an elaborate chain pattern over green and white. Her broad obi of red silk is crisply folded in the angular style which was then in fashion. She walks on high, lacquered geta, and her towering coiffure is adorned with broad tortoiseshell hairpins. Beyond, it is cherry-blossom time on the grounds of the San'en - better known as the Sojōji - temple."

Quoted from: Kunisada's World by Sebastian Izzard, p. 92.

This image is displayed in color on page 93 of the source cited above.
Mikawaya Seiemon (三河屋清右衛門) (publisher)
bats (komori - 蝙蝠) (genre)
beautiful women (bijin-ga - 美人画) (genre)