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Fujin sogaku jittai 婦人相学拾躰 (Ten Types in the Physiognomic Study of Women)

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (series)

    • Fujin sogaku jittai 婦人相学拾躰 (Ten Types in the Physiognomic Study of Women)
  • Description

    Colour woodblock print. One composition of ten designs. Woman with nude upper body, washing and combing her hair over basin of water. Inscribed, signed and marked.

  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1802-1803 (ca.)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 36.3 centimetres
    • Width: 25 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        image, tope left, in cartouche
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

        身のたしなみよく諸事行わたりよき相なり いつたい色情ふかけれともおいそれにゆくしろ物にあらず
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Fujin sogaku juttai.
        Mi no tashinami yoku, shoji ikiwatari, yoki so nari, ittai shikijo fukakeredomo, oisore ni yuku shiro mono ni arazu.
      • Inscription Translation

        Ten Types in the Physiognomic Study of Women.
        She has a nice personal appearance and in all respects is a good type. In general her passions run deep, but she is no fool to let them run away with her.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        image, top left, in cartouche
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

        Kanso Utamaro
      • Inscription Translation

        Utamaro the physiognomist
      • Inscription Comment

        With the 'akubi' (yawning) element on right-hand side of the 'Uta' character.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom right
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Comment

        Mark of the publisher, Yamashiroya Toemon.
  • Curator's comments

    Asano and Clark 1995

    A series of ten half-length portraits of women. The idea is to show a variety of types and to comment on their physiognomy in a text written on the print. This is the best known of the various "physiognomic" series done by Utamaro in the Kyowa era (1801-04) and it is frequently discussed in comparison with the two incomplete series "Ten Types in the Physiognomic Study of Women" (Fujin sogaku juttai, cat. nos. 56-60) and "Ten Classes of Women's Physiognomy" (Fujo ninso juppon, cat. nos. 61-64) of c. 1792-3. The fact that all of the inscribed comments are positive in mood may well mean that they were written to conform with government regulations exhorting prints to contribute to public morality. The series was a joint venture between two publishing firms: Combing the hair (Kami-suki), Hiding a letter (Fumi-kakushi), Hand-mill (Hiki-usu), Peepshow (Nozoki-megane), Windmill (Fusha) were issued by Yamashiroya Toemon; Reading a letter (Fumi-yomi), Pipe (Kiseru), Lantern (Chochin), Shaving the eyebrows (Mayu-sori), and Blackening the teeth (Kane-tsuke) were issued by Tsuruya Kiemon. Only the designs issued byYamashiroya have a red outline to the triple "bookmark-shaped" (shiori-gata) title cartouche.

    The present design shows a woman washing her hair.

    Shibui, Kiyoshi 渋井清, 'Ukiyo-e zuten, vol. 13: Utamaro' 「ウキヨエ図典13 歌麿」, Kazama Shobo, Tokyo, 1964, pl. 65-1-1.
    ‘Ukiyo-e taikei’「浮世絵大系」, gen. ed. Goto, Shigeki, vol. 6, Shueisha, Tokyo, 1976, black and white fig. 82.
    "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. 326-1.
    'Ukiyo-e shuka' 「浮世絵聚花」, vol. 11, Shogakkan, Tokyo, 1978-85, pl. 50.
    ‘Meihin soroimono ukiyo-e’ 「名品揃物浮世絵」, gen. ed. Narazaki, Muneshige, vol. 4, Gyosei, Tokyo, 1991-2, pl. 23.

    Other impressions:
    Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
    Tokyo National Museum 東京国立博物館.

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

    浅野/クラーク 1995


    本図は女性の髪を洗う姿。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]


  • Bibliography

    • Asano & Clark 1995 406 bibliographic details
    • Ukiyo-e shuka Vol 11 50 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • 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'

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department


  • Registration number


Colour woodblock print. One composition of ten designs. Woman with nude upper body, washing and combing her hair over basin of water. Nishiki-e on paper. Inscribed, signed and marked.


Colour woodblock print. One composition of ten designs. Woman with nude upper body, washing and combing her hair over basin of water. Nishiki-e on paper. Inscribed, signed and marked.

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