Kinko and Echizen


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. Black-and-white compositions like this one are known as sumizuri-e because they were rubbed or printed in ink only. This print, created around 1700 by Ōmori Yoshikiyo, is part of an altered edition of an ehon (illustrated book) and depicts a scene in Kyoto’s Shimabara pleasure district. One courtesan, identified as Echizen, is seen writing poetry while the second, called Kinko, grooms the hair of a male patron as he watches in a mirror. These figures are identical in pose to figures from an earlier work, Courtesans in Opposing Mirrors, signed by Okumura Masanobu (circa 1686–1764). Masanobu’s work was based on an image created by Torii Kiyonobu I (circa 1664–1729), dated 1700.

Last updated: July 26, 2012