Flowers of the Floating World: Wringing Water from her Hem
a beauty wringing out her kosode; sealed Shuntei, dated on left margin Meiji sanjuichinen rokugatsu toka (Meiji 31 , 6th month, 10th day) published by Akiyama Buemon
oban tate-e 13 3/4 by 9 1/4 in., 35 by 23.6 cm
Miyagawa Shuntei studied with the nanga painter Watanabe Shoka (1835-1887) and later with Tomioka Eisen (1864-1905), the prolific and popular artist famous for his kuchi-e (frontispiece illustrations for novels and periodicals). Like his teacher, Eisen, who sought to become a 'real' painter at the end of his short life of forty-one years, Shuntei attempted to gain acceptance as a painter by submitting his work to national competitive exhibitions. In 1899 an art critique wrote that one of his works might only be appreciated by women or children (Merritt & Yamada, Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints: Reflections on Meiji Culture, p. 208). It seems Shuntei took this criticism to heart: from the following year on, he produced numerous kuchi-e, a format largely marketed to the female audience. In a strange coincidence, Shuntei, like Eisen, died at the age of forty-one.
The title of this series uses an unusual combination of kanji. The first character, Yu, literally translates as 'there is', however, it is often used in a zen Buddhist context, as in, 'there exists.' The second character, 'ki', is a seldom used kanji for 'joy' or 'pleasure,' followed by 'yo', for 'world' - the same 'yo' used in ukiyo-e (the floating world). The last character is another rarely used kanji, 'hana,' or flower, which also sometimes implies 'pride.' Thus the title, Flowers of the World of Pleasure, can also imply Beauties of the World of Pleasure or The Pride of the Pleasure World. It seems Shuntei, and/or the publisher Akiyama Buemon, were attempting to reframe and rename the all too familiar theme of the fleeting, floating world of ukiyo-e.
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site last updated
August 14, 2022
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
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