Utagawa Kuniyoshi


Preparatory Drawing related to right sheet of triptych 'Modern Choices'
(Mitate tosei)

sumi ink drawing with detailed notations for the carver and printer indicating the intended coloration, unsigned, ca. 1829

conserved on archival paper 15 3/4 by 11 in., 40.1 by 27.8 cm

This drawing relates directly to the right-hand sheet of a scarce triptych published by Omiya Heihachi in circa 1829 titled on each sheet, Mitate tosei (Modern Choices) which illustrates women from the four divisions of society, known as shinokosho, which were based on Confucian ideals and were rarely, if ever, determined by choice. The Kuniyoshi Project online managed to assemble images of the three sheets (the right and left in black and white photos) of the printed triptych, reading from the right sheet (which corresponds to this drawing): shi (samurai, at the top), no (farmers) , ko (craftsmen) and sho (merchants, at the bottom). The two ladies of the samurai class are well-dressed in a suitably refined palette. The drawing indicates that the forward beauty's predominately white furisode ('swinging sleeves') was intended to have bokashi (gradation) of purple near the sleeve which is indicated with dash lines about half way down. The figure behind her was intended to have a dark green kimono with lighter green spots. The muted colors of the center sheet visible at the Kuniyoshi Project illustrates a bawdy woman sitting on a sheaf of grains and breast-feeding a baby with her kimono pulled open past her shoulders representing the farming class; together with a sensible woman of the craftsmen class wearing a practical short jacket over her kimono. As the craftswoman is carrying a hoe over her shoulder one wonders if their identifiers should be reversed. On the left sheet a ranking courtesan with her kamuro with their resplendent clothing and array of hair ornaments are representing the merchant class--for it was primarily the merchants who could afford their dazzling company.

Drawings of this type would have been helpful to keep on hand during the production process, particularlly for the printer, to ensure that the artist's intentions were followed. It was discovered within a small collection of preparatory works, all dating to circa 1830 either stylistically or by matching directly to published prints. The composition is very similar to another drawing found in the group which has been matched to a different triptych, Tosei haru geshiki (Spring View With Fashionable Women) issued by the same publisher. It would appear that Kuniyoshi may have produced the designs as an intended six-panel set, which the publisher chose to separate it two unrelated triptychs.

The Kuniyoshi Project (kuniyoshiproject.com), Triptychs of Beautiful Women, Part III
(inv. no. 10-2707)

price: $1,200

Utagawa Kuniyoshi

The Kuniyoshi Project


Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm preferably for no more than two individuals at a time.
Visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing at their discretion.

site last updated
July 29, 2022

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475