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The Hitachi Sash

A: Manicure

The first illustration in volume I. An abuna-e ('dangerous picture') of a young man seated on an open verandah in the company of a beauty who is carefully manicuring his nails. A towel is draped over a tsuitate standing screen and a teacup is near her to the left. Although she is fully clothed with her obi tied he wears his kimono casually open at the neck. A blossoming tree in the garden sets the scene in a warm season.

Attributed to Kitagawa Utamaro, 1753-1806

The Hitachi Sash
(Ehon Hitachi Obi)

complete set of three fukuro-toji ehon (string-bound illustrated books), dark blue covers with worn paper title slips, numbered jo, chu, ge (top, middle, bottom) with corresponding frontispiece illustrations: the first with a pine branch with a suggestive opening, the second with a section of bamboo, and the third with a flowering sprig of plum, volume I with six double-page erotic illustrations, volume II and III each with seven, and all three with a final single-page illustration of a flower arrangement in phallus-shaped vases, ca. 1800

hanshibon 8 3/8 by 5 7/8 in., 21.3 by 14.8 cm

This set of three ehon appears to be rare. There is an earlier three-volume sumizuri-e set by Utamaro published in 1795 with the same title but the compositions are quite different. The size, format, color palette, and scale of the figures with abundant dialogue in this set is similar to other works by Utamaro produced from approximately 1799 to 1803, the most famous of which is Ehon waraijogo (The Laughing Drinker), ca. 1803. See Lane for comparison with a detail of an aiban print he attributes to Utamaro and dates to possibly the mid-1790s which is a similar composition to the third illustration in the third (ge) volume, in which a beauty pokes her lover's face with a hair ornament while straddling his lap.

Hayashi and Lane (eds.), The Complete Ukiyo-e Shunga, no. 15, Utamaro, 1997, p. 16, fig 53
Uhlenbeck and Winkel, Japanese Erotic Fantasies, 2005, pp., 134-142 (similar works)