Keisai Eisen


beauty holding umbrella in snow

vertical oban diptych signed Keisai Eisen ga, with archaic seal (possibly the publisher's) partially visible on her black obi, ca. 1818-30

kakemono-e 29 by 9 5/8 in., 73.8 by 24.5 cm

On a snowy evening, a geisha shields herself with an umbrella while carefully navigating a slippery path. Her ensemble reflects the influence of iki (chic) style of reserved elegance. The kosode, decorated with a simple striped ikat pattern, contrasts with an inner robe of yellow maple leaves and cherry blossoms on a green ground, and a rose-colored undergarment with a white collar with a creped geometric pattern. A dramatic wide black obi crisscrosses over her waist with the ends trailing behind her, and her hair is arranged with comparatively few ornaments. She holds the hem of her robes out of the snow, revealing inner layers of clothing and her black lacquer geta worn with bare feet in the style associated with geisha from the Fukagawa district.

Unlike standard oban-sized prints which could be viewed individually and perhaps collected in an album, vertical diptychs, or kakemono-e (lit. 'hanging picture') were designed to be hung on a wall or within a tokonoma (alcove reserved for displaying art), thereby mimicking the scale and impact of painted hanging scroll but available at a much more accessible price for the average consumer. Often already mounted as hanging scrolls by the publishers, kakemono-e such as this diptych by Eisen is the visual equivalent of a pin-up of a beautiful woman and a fashion poster at the same time. However, because they were displayed and rarely preserved in albums, kakemono-e were vulnerable to the vestiges of time and extant impressions with any preservation of color are rare.

Madame Butterfly's World: Woodblock Prints of a Changing Japan, Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, June 21 - September 21, 2014

(inv. no. 10-3649)

price: $3,800

Keisai Eisen



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site last updated
March 21, 2023

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