Keisai Eisen (1790 - 1848) Young Woman Walking Under an Umbrella, c1830’s. Kakemono-e.
The kakemono-e describes the vertical diptych format of woodblock print, popular in the first half of the nineteenth century. The form derives from earlier, hand painted scrolls of Buddhist deities and Chinese calligraphy mounted on silk or brocade and designed to be hung in the tokonoma (alcoves), with perhaps a flower arrangement or piece of pottery to form an important and sometimes reverential display. These displays would change according to season or festival.
During the late edo period, the form was expanded to include new genres; theatre scenes and oiran (prostitutes), or geisha. These pictures clearly depart from the function of the earliest form and can be seen as another emblematic shift towards the pleasures enjoyed by the burgeoning townsman culture. Despite the apparent irreverence of these pictures they nevertheless represent some of the most beautiful and inventive designs in all of ukiyo-e.
The picture here is an exquisite geisha depiction produced by the notable artist Keisai Eisen in the 1840’s. A woman strolls elegantly beneath the shade of a parasol holding an ukiyo-e album in her free hand (for a discussion on this print and ukiyo-e binding see our Wordpress blog); her elaborate kimono is decorated with Japanese morning-glory flowers. This is an object of desire - unattainable for most men. Such geisha or courtesans were notoriously expensive and aloof; as culture changed and became more commercial so did the artefacts of importance. This is a status object, refined, expensively produced and aspirational.
The print is a delicate study in blues and pinks. The two sheets are joined but unbacked. A fine impression in good condition, there are some edge frays and repairs but overall excellent.
Kiwame seal 1815 - 1842. Published by Tsutaya Kichizo.