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Physiogomist's View of Oshun, Wife of Denbei (Reproduction)

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Kitagawa Utamaro, Japanese, (1754–1806)
Physiogomist's View of Oshun, Wife of Denbei (Reproduction), c. 1770-1806
Ink on Paper
15 5/16 in. x 9 13/16 in. (388.94 mm x 249.24 mm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. James W. Johnson
Accession Number: 46.1.58

Reproduction, by Adachi.

Utamaro's "Physiogomist's View of Oshun, Wife of Denbei" depicts a closeup of Oshun, whose double suicide with her husband Denbei, a rice merchant, became the subject matter in the kabuki play Migawari Oshun, or Scapegoat Oshun. In the print, Oshun wears kimonos sporting the popular fashions of the day with her hair ornamented in the style of a courtesan. The background was darkened with ground mica, a relatively new technique at the time. Resembling a portrait, the print contains areas of extreme detail, down to the individual hairs pulled tight on her head. The detailing contrasts the stark minimalism of the lines of her face, a style intrinsic to the Japanese artistic tradition. Kitagawa Utamaro (1754-1806) is regarded as the most famous depictor of bijin, or beautiful women, of all ukiyo-e printmakers. He was among the first to zoom in on the face and design portrait-like prints such as that of Oshun. Furthermore, Utamaro embraced the mundane tasks of the courtesan in many of his prints, portraying them brushing their hair, putting on makeup, or taking care of their other off-duty necessities.

On verso, in pencil: "Reproduction Utamaro, Johnson V 38." Label on verso, lower left. Signed: Utamaro hitsu.

Colored ink on paper, mica background. Woodblock print.

Object Description
Edo period color woodblock print with a close-up portrait of a woman.


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