Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Twenty-Four Hours at Shinbashi and Yanagibashi (Shinryu nijushi toki) 3 a.m. - Geisha in bed holding pipe and tobacco pouch, (1880). Oban.
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One of the finest of this series, reminiscent of his later, famous series 32 Aspects of Customs and Manners. This print depicts the languorous attitude of the courtesan: it is 3 o'clock in the morning; she is barely dressed, her clothes in disarray and she is smoking. The atmosphere is one of decadence and sexuality, and the colours are beautifully modulated to the sinuous lines of the composition.
In the late Edo period the area of Shinbashi and Yanagibashi became the new focus of entertainment and prostitution. What became the main Tokyo Railway Station opened here in 1872 and by the 1880‘s, with modernisation in full spate, the area came to symbolise the new, patriotic, modern Japan. There is a great deal in this series that aspires to the modern, in spite of the traditions of the geisha and of prostitution that it depicts. The notion of documenting the courtesan’s day was not new and had been exploited already by artists such as Utamaro. In this series, Yoshitoshi depicts twenty-four scenes of women performing different tasks, one for each hour of the day. Notable is Yoshitoshi’s use of the Western 24 hour clock. Japan had only recently moved from the traditional Chinese calendar and this device, along with the modern style of drawing that he was confidently mastering, gives the series a deliberately contemporary feel. Each of the prints shows a head and shoulders image of a geisha; the scenes are mundane, a geisha walking home in the snow , or as in this print, retiring for bed. At the top of each sheet is a large cartouche which illustrates a prose piece written by Takabatake Ransen in the gesaku tradition, a style that requires coterie knowledge to be fully understood.
The print is in fine condition and colour and impression are very fine. There is shomenzuri burnishing to the blacks.
Signed, oju Yoshitoshi ga. Published by Morimoto Junzaburo, Nakamura Mitsu, engraved by Hori Yata, text by Takabatake Ransen.