Kitagawa Utamaro, Women sewing, a triptych of colour woodblock prints

Japan
Edo period, about AD 1795-96

Utamaro depicted more types of women, in various activities, than any other Ukiyo-e artist. A group of respectable married women, surrounded by their children and even a pet cat are working together on a hot summer's day folding and mending obi sashes. On the right, two of them stretch and fold a red silk sash tie-dyed with a white 'starfish' pattern. On the left, the sewing equipment scattered on the floor suggests that this woman is holding up the sash to check a mend she has just made in the fine gauze This gives Utamaro a chance to exploit one of his favourite technical tricks of depicting figures seen through gauze.

Ateenage girl examines an insect, perhaps a firefly, in its tiny cage. A little boy teases a cat with its reflection in a mirror, while a baby plays with its mother's fan. Although the scene is one of warm domesticity, Utamaro still introduces a note of eroticismin the partially revealed breasts and legs of the figures clad lightly against the summer heat.

Find in the collection online

More information

Bibliography

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

Narazaki Muneshige, and Yamaguchi Keisaburo (eds.), Ukiyo-e shūka, vol. 2 (Tokyo, shu eisha, 1979)

S. Asano and T. Clark, The passionate art of Kitagawa (London, 1995)

Dimensions

Height: 370.000 mm (each approx.)
Width: 245.000 mm (each approx.)

Museum number

Asia JA 1912.4-16.0220

JCF4809

Location

Find in the collection online



Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore