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. Shunshō (1726–93) was a leading artist of the Katsukawa school, which emphasized realism rather than idealistic or dream-like portrayals of traditional ukiyo-e subjects. He helped develop nishiki-e (full-color prints) in 1765, along with artist Suzuki Harunobu. This bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women) portraying a courtesan is a rare work by Shunshō, who primarily produced sumo wrestler and warrior prints during this period. It is in the format of hashira-e (pillar print), intended for display on support pillars in buildings.

Last updated: September 18, 2015