Utagawa Kunisada, Beauty beside a standing lantern, a colour woodblock print

Edo period, about AD 1818-20

From the series 'Starfrost Contemporary Manners' (Hoshi no shimo tōsei fūzoku)

In the middle of the night, a courtesan gets up to trim the wick of a standing lantern. She is clad only in her light silk under-kimono. The shadow of her arm is thrown on to the paper lamp-shade. The black lacquer tray with two tea-cups suggests the presence of a client behind the screen, and the array of scattered hairpins and accessories and the outer kimono and obi flung over the screen further suggest their intimacy. The slender figure is emphasized by the soft red silk kimono decorated in tie-dyed starfish pattern. Her collar is hand-painted with a design of a cuckoo signed Gototei (one of Kunisada's art-names). Perhaps he would like us to think that he is the unseen visitor.

Kunisada (1786-1864) makes original use of the screen to create a sense of space. Together with the unusual lighting effects and informal, intimate pose of the woman, he produces a feeling of immediacy drawing the viewer into the scene.

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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)

M. Narasaki (ed.), Hizō Ukiyo-e taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1988)


Height: 380.000 mm
Width: 251.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA 1942.1-24.015


J.J. O'Brien Sexton Collection
Purchased with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund


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