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Fujin Sogaku Jittai (Ten Types in the Physiognomic Study of Women)

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1945,1101,0.19

  • Title (series)

    • Fujin Sogaku Jittai (Ten Types in the Physiognomic Study of Women)
  • Description

    Woodblock print. Bijinga. Woman with left hand tucking handkerchief in her obi and gesturing with her right hand.

  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1754-1806 (artist)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 37.6 centimetres
    • Volume: 24.7 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Fujin Sogaku Jittai
      • Inscription Comment

        series title
      • Inscription Type

        signature
      • Inscription Comment

        Soken Utamaro
      • Inscription Type

        mark
      • Inscription Comment

        publisher's(Tsuta-Ju.Koshodo)
  • Curator's comments

    Kitagawa Utamaro was known in his own time – as he is now – for his ‘pictures of beautiful women’ (bijinga). Utamaro’s career as a specialist in this genre was forged in collaboration with publisher Tsutaya Ju-zaburo- (1750–97), and these pictures were part of an ongoing social fascination for appraising, classifying and marketing ‘beauty’. In 1792–3 Tsutaya published this print by Utamaro, in a group intended to be a set of ten studies on female physiognomies. Subtitled ‘Uwaki no so-’, this picture describes the figure as, literally, the ‘light-hearted’, or ‘fancy-free’ type. Using the term ‘physiognomy’ referred to period practices of discerning personality and destiny through a close analysis of facial features, ‘reading’ them, according to period manuals for the pseudo-science. The text thus describes this image as a study of an individual classified by physiognomy as a ‘type’. Shown in mid-action, as though she is turning to speak to an associate, the woman seems to have been drawn as though she might have been seen by Utamaro himself. The mica-printed background enhances the contours of the figure while at the same time alluding to the idea of a mirror or a silver leafcovered standing screen. However, comparison with period literature demonstrates that Utamaro was not basing his design upon direct observation, but referring to another set of social and sexual classifications. The posture and gesture of the ‘fancy-free type’ matches the design of an unlicensed prostitute disguised as a dancer (odoriko) illustrated in a book by Santo- Kyo-den, published by Tsutaya in 1786. ‘Physiognomic’ study, too, alluded to an erotic book, Ehon hime hajime (Picture Book: First-Time Princesses) of 1790, by Utamaro and Katsukawa Shuncho - , in which facial types were ‘matched’ to physiological qualities of the sexual organs (see also Shunga, cat. 52). Discerning viewers of his time likely would have recognized these sources as the real ‘physiognomic’ meaning of the image. [JD]

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Ukiyo-e shuka Vol 11 125 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history

    2010 22 Sep-14 Nov, Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, 'Kitagawa Utamaro'
    2011 Feb 14- Jun 13, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    13 November 1997

    Reason for treatment

    Loan

    Treatment proposal

    Remount

    Condition

    The print is attached to a backmount with adhesive along all four sides. There are numerous vertical, horizontal and diagonal creases. It is slighlty scuffed and there is loss of mica. There are a few small holes on the face. The print is slighlty scuffed along the top edge. There is surface and ingrained dirt overall. The print has been lined.

    Treatment details

    The print was detached from the backmount and the lining was removed. Creases were supported using Japanese paper. The holes were infilled with hosho and retouched using watercolours. It was spray relaxed on the verso and pressed between blotting paper. It was inlaid by the mounters.

    About these records 

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1945

  • Department

    Asia

  • Registration number

    1945,1101,0.19

Woodblock. General subject - bijinga. Woman with left hand tucking handkerchief in her obi and gesturing with her right hand. Nishiki-e on paper.

Recto & Verso

Woodblock. General subject - bijinga. Woman with left hand tucking handkerchief in her obi and gesturing with her right hand. Nishiki-e on paper.

Image description

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Object reference number: JCF6752

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