Chokosai Eisho, fl. ca. 1795-1801
Contest of Beauties from the Pleasure Quarters: Shinataru of the Okamoto-ya
traces of mica on printed yellow ground, signed Eisho ga, with publisher's seal To of Yamaguchiya Chusuke, ca. 1795-97
oban tate-e 15 by 9 3/4 in., 38 by 24.9 cm
This print is from a collaborative series depicting bust-portraits of famous high-ranking courtesan designed by students of Hosoda Eishi (1756-1829). Of the 24 extant prints, Eisho contributed the most, with 20 known works. There are three known by Rekisentei Eiri (active 1790-1800), and only one by Eiu (active mid-1790s).
Although he was Eishi's most successful and prolific student, excelling at okubi-e ('big head') portraits of beauties, details regarding Eisho's life are unknown. While Eisho's work bears stylistic affinity to the elegant and regal figures typical of Eishi, the facial expressions of his portraits are frequently light-hearted and arguably capture a more realistic and human aspect of what is otherwise a stylized and idealized beauty. In the mid-1790s Eisho worked with the publisher Yamaguchiya Chusuke to produce bijin okubi-e competing with the okubi-e by Kitagawa Utamaro (1752-1815) published by Nishimuraya Yohachi and Tsutaya Juzaburo which were dominating the market. Although notably scarce, surviving examples from this series are nevertheless among the most-recognizable images of ukiyo-e beauties.
Vignier & Inada, Estampes Japonaises: Yeishi, Choki, Hokusai, 1913, p. 32, no. 48, pl. XV (Mme. Langweil)
Klaus J. Brandt, Hosoda Eishi 1756-1829, 1977, pl. 61, no. A14
Richard Lane, Images from the Floating World: The Japanese Print, 1978, pp. 142-143, no. 146, pp. 220-221, and cover illustration (another Eisho from the series)
Andreas Marks, Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2019, p. 242 (another Eisho from this series)
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