Keisai Eisen


Forty-Eight Traits in the Floating World: The Wife's Habit of Wanting to Wear Something as Soon as She Looks at It
(Ukiyo yonjuhachi kuse: Miru to kitagaru wa nyubo no kuse)

signed Keisai Eisen ga with artist's seal Sen, censor's seal Kiwame (approved), and publisher's seal Sa (Otaya Sakichi of Kinrindo), ca. 1820s

oban tate-e 14 7/8 by 10 in., 37.8 by 25.4 cm

A beauty wearing an understated kimono decorated with an indigo hishi (water caltrop plant) pattern paired with a complimentary shima (striped) obi tied at the back stands while intensely contemplating a partially unrolled bolt of fabric with a unique linear pattern of alternating bands of teal, red, and blue decorated with gold karakusa (scrollling vines) lined with tassels that may represent kakuremino (the cloak of invisibility, a treasure of the Lucky Gods). This pattern seems to have been popular with courtesans in circa 1820 as there are designs by both Eisen and Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) that feature the distinctive motif used to great effect on uchikake (formal coats) worn by women of the Yoshiwara. Here the partially visible label hanging upside down near her waist reads: Obiji (obi fabric), a far more sensible use of what was likely an expensive material. Without specific dates on the prints it is difficult to determine definitively who wore it first, courtesans or fashion-conscious townswomen, but you could surmise that the courtesans wore it most, utilizing the fabric for lavish uchikake.

At her bare feet are additional rolls labeled from right to left, Oatsurae obiji (obi frabric by request), Ayaori (twill), and the top bolt on a pile of folded cloth reads Hontsuge (announcing first sale). The print title identifies her rank in society as a married woman (confirmed by her shaved eyebrows), possibly a junior member of a household, as well as her predicament, a weakness for the newest fashions: The Wife's Habit of Wanting to Wear Something as soon as She Looks at It.

A signboard in the upper left landscape cartouche announces a kaicho (lit. 'opening the curtain'), a public exhibition of religious objects not normally on view at a Buddhist temple, usually accompanied by outdoor entertainments. No doubt the excitement of attending the fair-like atmosphere of the kaicho only fuels her desire to update her wardrobe for the event.

Keisai Eisen: Artist of the Floating World, Chiba City Museum of Art, 2012, p. 61, no.35 (series)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (collections.mfa.org), accession no. 11.25605

(inv. no. 10-5354)

price: $3,800

Keisai Eisen

Above: Kunisada, The Hour of the Rooster, Sixth Hour of Twilight, ca. 1818-20
Below: Eisen, Ishibe, Miyoshino of the Tsuruya, ca. 1821-23

Keisai Eisen

kakuremino (cloak of invisibility, a treasure of the Lucky Gods)


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site last updated
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