House of Ichizuke


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. Kitagawa Utamaro was a highly influential ukiyo-e artist, known in Japan as well as in the Western world for his stylistic portrayal 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. While Utamaro often created idealized images of women, he captured moments of their gestures in daily lives rather than conventional poses. This print, for instance, shows courtesans preparing tea and performing other domestic duties, while their guest looks out of the window at the falling snow. It was created in 1804, the year that Utamaro was arrested for drawing illustrations for a censored book.

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1 print : woodcut, color ; 17.7 x 26.4 centimeters


  • From the series: Seirō ehon nunchū gyōji : Yearly activities of the Green house courtesans.

Last updated: February 24, 2014