Kitagawa Utamaro: Young Woman Blowing a Glass Pipe (poppin) - Honolulu Museum of Art

Artist: Kitagawa Utamaro

Title: Young Woman Blowing a Glass Pipe (poppin)

Date: c. 1792 - 1793

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Source: Honolulu Museum of Art
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Description: The predominant bijinga artist ofthe Tenmei and Kansei eras used a variety of techniques and formats and poignantly depicted the inner character of women. The close-up bust portrait of a beauty, known as ökubi-e, was a print form originally invented by Utamaro. This print is one masterpiece from a series presenting views of the various characteristics of women’s physiognomy. The genre nature of this image of a serious-appearing wellborn young girl as blows on a glass poppin is impressive and unusual. The artist even signed his work “Painted by the physiognomist Utamaro.” (Tadashi Kobayashi, Edo Beauty in Ukiyoe, 1994) * ** * * * * * * * Utamaro's invention of a print form depicting only a close-up bust portrait of a beauty, known as ökubi-e, enabled him to demonstrate the character of his subjects through their facial expressions and gestures. This print shows a young girl blowing on a glass poppin (a toy glass pipe), a novelty of the type coveted by the nouveau rich of the merchant class. Michener pointed out that ukiyo-e today is prized by social historians, since it depicted the new world of the rising middle class and the rich cultural legacy of the Edo period. This print is one masterpiece from a series presenting the various characteristics of women’s physiognomy. The artist even signed his work “Painted by the physiognomist Utamaro.” Sprinkled little cherry flower motifs on the light pink checker- board design of the kimono, as well as the neatly dressed hair evoke the sense of youth, femininity and decency of a daughter from the upper-middle class. (from "VOGUE in Japan: Edo Fashion through Japanese prints" exhibition 07/30/08-)

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