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triptych print

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Colour woodblock triptych print. Three women seated, sorting and sewing fabrics; with three children and cat playing. Nishiki-e on paper, with printed glue. Signed and marked.

  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1794-1795 (ca.)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 37.3 centimetres (right)
    • Width: 24.8 centimetres (right)
    • Height: 37.2 centimetres (centre)
    • Width: 24.8 centimetres (centre)
    • Height: 37.2 centimetres (left)
    • Width: 24.7 centimetres (left)
    • Height: 560 millimetres (Mount)
    • Width: 916 millimetres (Mount)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        each print, image
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

        Utamaro hitsu
      • Inscription Translation

        Brush by Utamaro
      • Inscription Comment

        Without the 'akubi' (yawning) element on right-hand side of the 'Uta' character.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

        each print, image
      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

      • Inscription Comment

        Mark of the publisher, Uemura Yohei.
  • Curator's comments

    Asano and Clark 1995

    Three women engaged in needlework are arranged across the three sheets of a triptych. On each sheet there is also a child in a subsidiary role to lend variety to the composition. The theme and the date of execution are very similar to the group of single ‘oban’ sheets published by Uemura Yohei, cat. nos. 200-204, and the present triptych may be regarded as an addition to this series in a grander format.

    Shibui, Kiyoshi 渋井清, 'Ukiyo-e zuten, vol. 13: Utamaro' 「ウキヨエ図典13 歌麿」, Kazama Shobo, Tokyo, 1964, pls. 21-2-1, 21-2-2, 21-2-3.
    ‘Ukiyo-e taikei’「浮世絵大系」, gen. ed. Goto, Shigeki, vol. 5, Shueisha, Tokyo, 1976, pls. 44-46.
    "Kitagawa Utamaro sakuhin mokuroku" 「喜多川歌麿作品目録」, 'Ukiyo-e shuka', 「浮世絵聚花」, vol. 3 (Bosuton Bijutsukan III ボストン美術館3), Shogakkan, Tokyo, 1978, pp. 235-254, pl. 349.
    'Ukiyo-e shuka' 「浮世絵聚花」, vol. 11, Shogakkan, Tokyo, 1978-85, pls. 45-47.
    ‘Hizo Ukiyo-e taikan’「秘蔵浮世絵大観」, gen. ed. Narazaki, Muneshige, suppl. vol., Kodansha, Tokyo, 1987-90,
    Galerie Huguette Berès, Paris, ‘Utamaro: Estampes, livres illustrés’, Paris, 1976 (English edition with addenda London, Messrs Wildentstein, 1977), black and white fig. 39.

    Other impressions:
    Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin.
    The New York Public Library.
    Tokyo National Museum 東京国立博物館.
    Worcester Art Museum (Mass.).
    The Yale University Art Gallery.
    Huguette Berès Collection (left sheet only).
    The British Museum, London (another impression).
    Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Bruxelles.
    Hiraki Ukiyo-e Museum 平木浮世絵美術館, Yokohama.
    Mizuta Art Museum 水田美術館, Josai University 城西大学.
    The Japan ‘Ukiyoe’ Museum 日本浮世絵博物館, Matsumoto.

    [Main text translated in Japanese below / 以下上記本文日本語訳]


    針仕事をしている三人の女性を三枚続に構成したもの。左中右のそれぞれに一人ずつ子供を配して変化を与えている。第200~204図と同趣同時期であり、その大画面版とでも称すべき作品である。Smith et al 1990

    Utamaro depicted more types of women, in more varied activities, than any other Ukiyo-e artist. He took a delight, too, in capturing the special intimacy between mothers and children. In this triptych ordinary housewives are shown busying themselves with the wide sashes ('obi') that formed such an important part of a woman's costume: two are stretching and folding a red 'obi' with white 'starfish' pattern, while another holds up a transparent silk gauze sash - presumably to check a mend she has just stitched. At their feet a young boy teases a cat with its reflection in a mirror, while the baby lolling in his mother's lap plays with her fan. The young woman seated at the rear is admiring an insect, perhaps a firefly, in its tiny cage.

    Though these are respectable middle-class women, Utamaro conveys his usual eroticism by depicting breasts and legs casually revealed on a hot summer's day.

    Hillier, Jack, 'Utamaro', London, 1961, reprinted 1979.Three women from a well-to-do household are busy mending and folding textile sashes. A baby boy lolls across his mother’s lap and plays with a fan. An older boy scares a cat with its own reflection in a mirror and a teenage girl holds up an insect cage containing maybe crickets or fireflies. Even this non-explicit work is pervaded with Utamaro’s characteristic sensuous eroticism. It is the height of summer so a gauze robe is left casually open to reveal breasts, a knee is raised to show off a white leg and red undergarment. The very lines and forms themselves exude physicality and passion. Utamaro has organized the picture so that the more the women seem engrossed in their work, the more we enjoy the feeling that we are spying. Like the more explicit shunga works, this creates a fantasy world of elegant, sensual women. About two thousand designs for
    non-erotic sheet prints by Utamaro are known. Each of his thirty or so erotic books has between about ten and thirty illustrations (and there are around twenty non-erotic books containing similar numbers of pictures). So the proportion of explicit shunga in his output is relatively high – maybe about twenty per cent. Even if they did not produce such a high percentage within their individual oeuvres, almost all artists of the so-called ‘floatingworld’ (ukiyo-e) school created shunga. It was an accepted and expected part of their output over a period of more than two hundred years from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. [TC]


  • Bibliography

    • Asano & Clark 1995 205 bibliographic details
    • Smith et al 1990 214 bibliographic details
    • Ukiyo-e shuka Vol 11 45-47 bibliographic details
    • Edo BM 1982 70 bibliographic details
    • Clark et al 2013 Cat. 3 bibliographic details
    • Binyon 1916 p. 212 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    2001 30 Jan-8 Apr, London, BM, Japanese Galleries, 'Arts of Japan: Recently repaired paintings, Ukiyo-e IV'
    2010 22 Sep-14 Nov, Birmingham, Ikon Gallery, 'Kitagawa Utamaro'
    2011 14 Feb-13 Jun, London, BM, Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'
    2013 3 Oct - 2014 5 Jan, London, BM, Shunga: Sex and pleasure in Japanese art, 1600-1900

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department


  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: Kitagawa Utamaro, Women sewing, a triptych of colour woodblock prints;Women sewing, a print


COMPASS Title: Kitagawa Utamaro, Women sewing, a triptych of colour woodblock prints;Women sewing, a print

Image description



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Object reference number: JCF4809

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