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Keisai Eisen, Young woman arranging her hair, a hanging scroll painting

 

Height: 850.000 mm
Width: 340.000 mm

Ralph Harari Collection

Asia JA JP ADD703 (1982.7-1.018)

    Keisai Eisen, Young woman arranging her hair, a hanging scroll painting

    Japan
    Edo period, AD 1820s

    The young woman depicted here is probably the teenage daughter of a rich merchant. In her gorgeously coloured and patterned kimono, she adopts an awkward girlish pose with her legs crossed in her lap. She curls her little finger elegantly as she adjusts her hair in her small hand mirror.

    This painting is outstanding for Eisen's treatment of the girl's dress. Particularly skilful is the combination of gauze over-kimono painted with flowering pinks, with the cherry blossoms and wicker fence of the under-kimono showing through. In addition, the elaborate obi (sash) tied in a large bow at her back has florid blue and white peony-like blooms against a background worked with gold thread.

    Eisen's painting has little of the balance and restraint of earlier artists such as Harunobu and Kiyonaga, and in the past critics have tended to dismiss his work as 'decadent'. But even though urban culture in the late Edo period certainly had its florid aspects, witness this painting and the fashions it depicts, the art still maintained considerable vigour.

    The neat clear-cut characters of this signature suggest an early date in the career of Eisen (1790-1848), in the early-mid Bunsei era (1818-30).

    The signature reads 'Eisen sha' ('painted by Eisen'). The seals read 'Keisai, Eisen no in'.

    L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

    T. Clark, Ukiyo-e paintings in the Briti (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

    M. Narasaki (ed.), Hizō Ukiyo-e taikan, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987)