- Museum number
Object: Ne no koku
Series: Seiro juni toki tsuzuki
Woodblock print. Bijinga. popular culture. Hour of the rat, girls undressing, one kneeling and folding kimono.
- Production date
- 1794 (circa)
- Curator's comments
- Always keen to reveal ‘private’ moments in the lives of his female subjects, Utamaro’s project with this series was to show in twelve prints a typical day and night in the life of a high-ranked courtesan in Yoshiwara pleasure quarter. The series title is written between the hanging weights of a stylized lantern clock and the zodiacal name for the time of day (or night) appears on the bell. At the Hour of the Rat, roughly midnight, a courtesan changes into her nightclothes while a teenage apprentice (shinzo-) folds away the robe she has just worn at a party. Utamaro draws the standing figure of the courtesan impossibly tall and slender, endowing her with an almost regal presence even in this apparently unguarded moment. There is gentle comedy and astute observation in the way the younger woman uses her chin as she struggles to fold the robe. Nowhere in the series is the client seen, although his presence just outside the picture frame is often implied.
In his biography of Utamaro published in 1891, Edmond de Goncourt singled out Twelve Hours in Yoshiwara for special praise as ‘speaking the most attractively to the eye’ (‘… la plus joliment parlante aux yeux …’). Goncourt devoted a short chapter to the series, commenting on the delicacy of the gestures, and beauty of the costumes and colour scheme. In the context of Utamaro’s reputation as the ‘Painter of the Green Houses’ (the poetic name for the brothels of Yoshiwara), this series of around 1794 and the illustrated book (Seiroehon) Nenju- gyo- ji (Annals of the Green Houses) of 1804 were central
to the estimation of his talents; together, of course, with shunga albums such as Utamakura (Poem of the Pillow) (Shunga, cat. nos. 48, 49), also praised effusively by Goncourt. [TC]
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2000 24 Mar-26 Jun, London, BM, Japanese Galleries, 'Japan Time'
2013 3 Oct - 2014 5 Jan, London, BM, Shunga: Sex and pleasure in Japanese art, 1600-1900
- Acquisition date
- Registration number