A Samurai Drinking Sake


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 is a preliminary sketch that may have been intended for a woodblock design. The style is reminiscent of the work of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839–92), especially in the graphic portrayal of the warrior’s wounds. Among other styles, Yoshitoshi created a series of prints known as “bloody prints” because of their focus on gore. He also used the same nervous brush stroke to create multiple outlines for his forms. At the base of the image is a separate drawing of a head, carefully shaded in red and black washes.

Last updated: September 19, 2013