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

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.

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More information


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)


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

Museum number

Asia JA 1912.4-16.0220



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