Kitagawa Utamaro: The Hour of the Snake (10 a.m.) - Honolulu Museum of Art

Artist: Kitagawa Utamaro

Title: The Hour of the Snake (10 a.m.)

Date: c. 1794

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Source: Honolulu Museum of Art
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This print is one of a series of twelve images devoted to the intervals of time known as koku, which make up a single day. Each koku is two hours long and is named according to the signs of the zodiac. The Hour of the Snake corresponds to 10:00 am, so this courtesan’s late morning is just beginning. A Yoshiwara courtesan is seen refreshing herself after her morning bath. The cartouche shaped like an old fashioned clock includes the following inscription: “Hours of the Snake (9-11 A.M.) The Twelve Hours of the Day in the Yoshiwara: A Series.” On the basis of the style and the signature, this print dates to the late 1790s. Despite the Kansei reforms, this print is quite luxurious; it is printed in seven colors, and sprinkled with gold dust. The courtesan is wearing narumi-shibori yukata (tie-dyed summer kimono). This type of dynamic design was popular among fashionable women and men. Yukata was originally an after-bath kimono or nightwear made of hemp. The spread of cotton enabled them to be worn for summer outings, as well. (from "VOGUE in Japan: Edo Fashion through Japanese prints" exhibition 07/30/08-)

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