Flirtatious Lover


The term ukiyo-e, literally “pictures of the floating world,” refers to a genre of Japanese artwork that flourished in the Edo period (1600–1868). As the phrase “floating world” suggests, with its roots in the ephemeral worldview of Buddhism, ukiyo-e captured the fleeting dynamics of contemporary urban life. While being accessible and catering to “common” tastes, the artistic and technical details of these prints show remarkable sophistication, their subjects ranging from portraits of courtesans and actors to classical literature. This ukiyo-e print is a part of the series Fujin Sōgaku Juttei (Ten physiognomies of beauty) by Kitagawa Utamaro. Utamaro gained popularity in Edo and beyond as a master of bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women). Bijin-ga capture the trends in feminine beauty by featuring both real and idealized images of high-ranking courtesans, historic figures, geisha (performers of music and dance), lower-ranked courtesans, fictional characters, notable townswomen, and ordinary women. In this series of female close-up portraits, Utamaro attempted to capture the personalities of his subjects through subtle details in their posture and facial expressions. Each figure represents a certain “type;” this portrait personifies uwaki (a light-hearted character), who is not too particular about propriety in appearance or behavior.

Last updated: February 12, 2016