A Modern Version of the Tale of Genji in Snow Scenes


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 triptych is a joint work by Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III) and Utagawa Hiroshige. The signature “Toyokuni-ga” (Painted by Toyokuni) appears on the left and right prints, while the center piece is signed “Hiroshige-hitsu” (Brush of Hiroshige). The careful recording of physical objects, typical of ukiyo-e, is in abundance here, including the elaborate dress of the male figure delicately holding an umbrella above him, and the female figure elegantly brandishing a broom.

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1 print (3 sheets) : woodcut, color ; 36.8 x 76.1 centimeters (whole image), 36.4 x 25.4 centimeters (left panel), 36.8 x 25.1 centimeters (center panel), 36.5 x 25.6 centimeters (right panel)

Last updated: May 23, 2012