Item from the Mokuhankan Flea Market

Beauty with an Insect Cage

Size: 41.0cm by 27.5cm (16.14 in by 10.83 in) | Enlargement | Shipping Code: [L] ?

Designer: Kitagawa Utamaro

Era: Mid Showa | Currency: $ / £ /

Price: ¥ 7,000$ 53.00£ 41.75€ 48.75 [Item has been sold]

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Description: Along with Utamaro's many designs of delicately painted women he also held a fascination with insects, later in his career even devoting and entire series to them, this print combines both interests of beautiful women and the natural world.

This print, one of the rarest by Utamaro, shows a young woman reaching into an insect cage used for collecting fireflies in the summer. Perhaps she is rearranging the sprigs she has placed inside in preparation and is just about to leave on her insect-collecting mission. The simplicity of her clothing and facial features is contrasted with the eye-catching background pattern and the extreme delicacy with which her hairline has been printed.

The checkered background in a sarasa moyo (更紗模様) pattern is a particularly interesting feature of the print, and is startlingly different from the plain or mica-covered backgrounds used in many other prints by Utamaro (only one other print with a sarasa background is known to have been designed by him). Sarasa (calico textiles usually made in India), still considered exotic and new at the time Utamaro designed this print, were first brought into Japan by Portuguese ships in the 17th century.

This particular print is a post-war reproduction by Yamada Shoin.

There are a few slight spots on the face and left arm.

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