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UTAMARO - Japanese Woodblock Print OGIYA HANAOGI 1795

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UTAMARO - Japanese Woodblock Print OGIYA HANAOGI 1795


Hanaogi of the Ogiya

from the series Renowned Beauties Likened to the Six Immortal Poets

Date: the first edition of this print first appeared in 1795-6, this is a Showa era strike from recarved wood blocks
Size: oban, approx. 10.75" x 16"
Condition: Fine, no flaws, uncirculated print, never framed
Impression: Fine, solid key lines and excellent registration of color, with gauffrage (blind embossing) on the white kimono collar.
Color: Fine, deep saturated color and bleed through

NOTE: See the enlargement below to view the very fine carving of the hairline of the beauty depicted in this print: incredible to think someone actually carved all the hairs in wood!!; and again to think that they were inked into the paper without the ink spreading. A tour de force of the Japanese art of woodblock prints.

This print is from a series showing bust portraits of six famous beauties of the day in Edo, with their names given in the form of picture-riddles (hanji-e). Although the use of picture-riddles in various series was certainly a playful pictorial device, it also started out as a necessary response to the edicts of 1793 forbidding the inclusion in prints of the names of women other than Yoshiwara courtesans. By another edict of the 8th month of 1796, these picture-riddles were also banned, so the works which use this device can be fairly securely dated between 1793 and 1796.

The picture-riddle gives the name Ogiya Hanaogi: "Ogi" (fan), "ya" (arrow). "Hana" (flower), "ogi" (fan).

In this picture the famous courtesan is shown pondering how to compose a letter.

Pupil of Toriyama Sekien, Utamaro's early work was undistinguished from most ukiyo-e of its time, but he reached maturity at the end of the 1780s and dominated the woodblock print world in the 1790s, and some believe he still does today when it comes to the subject of bijin-ga. Utamaro's work is marked by great technical virtuosity. His bijin-ga of the 1790s are usually considered his greatest accomplishments, but his most advanced work of the early 1800s are miracles of dithyrambic complexity and tend to impinge upon the territory of other arts (music, poetry etc). To the end he retained the qualities of alertness and spontaneity, of sudden revelation and conversational pleasantry, that are so delightful in his work. In many respects he was the greatest of all the Ukiyo-e artists.


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