Kitagawa Utamaro, 'Three Beauties

Kitagawa Utamaro, 'Three Beauties

Kitagawa Utamaro (1750-1806)
'Three Beauties'
Mid-1790s
Bijin-ga ('pictures of beautiful women')
Nishiki-e (brocade print)
Ôban size
Signature: Utamaro hitsu
Publisher: Tsutaya Jûzaburô
Museum no. E.263-1934

This print is an example of a bijin-ga or 'picture of beautiful women'. These were a popular genre of ukiyo-e. It shows the courtesans Ohisa and Okita and the singer Toyohina in a pyramidal formation. This pyramidal formation was an innovation of Utamaro's which was frequently copied by later ukiyo-e artists. Utamaro brought to the genre of figure prints a new ideal of feminine beauty.

The coloured ground of this print has been enhanced by kirazuri or 'mica printing', whereby mica powder has been printed with glue onto areas of the print using a woodblock. In order to create an even, smooth appearance, additional mica was sometimes applied with a brush over the printed mica.

Sometimes kirazuri was also combined with colours that were printed underneath the mica. In this print, where mica has been used on its own, the technique is called shiro-unmo or 'white mica' kirazuri.

This print can be found in Prints and Drawings Study Room box TOPIC JP1.