Eisen Keisai, Emperor Xuanzong of Tang and Lover, Hashira-e

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Original Japanese woodblock print.
hashira-e, pillar print, beauty, emperor, couple, flowers, eisen keisai, music, flute
hashira-e, pillar print, beauty, emperor, couple, flowers, eisen keisai, music, flute hashira-e, pillar print, beauty, emperor, couple, flowers, eisen keisai, music, flute

Artist: Eisen Keisai (1790–1848)
Title: Parody of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang and his lover playing the flute
Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi
Date: c. 1791-1804
Size: 10.4 x 59.3 cm
Condition: Creases, paper residues around the edge due to previous mounting, top and bottom panels attached, lightly soiled.

Keisai Eisen was an artist, who alongside Kunisada I (Toyokuni III), was renowned for his beauty prints, depicting courtesans and geisha in everyday life, sometimes touching on the erotic in nature.

Hashira-e, or pillar prints, is a narrow print format originally intended for decoration of the supporting pillars in traditional Japanese houses. The prints would have been pasted to the pillars and exposed to the elements of the Japanese household, making those that have survived very rare collectibles. While these more unusual sizes present their own challenges to the printing process, they also allow the artist to be experimental, imaginative, and innovative with the design’s compositional limitations.

Subjects range from the traditional portrayals of bijin (beautiful women), to legendary figures and heroes, to birds and flowers, in a limited space brimming with artistic imagination and expression.

Eisen Keisai


Keisai Eisen was an artist, who alongside his contemporary Kunisada I (Toyokuni III), was renowned for his beauty prints, depicting courtesans and geisha in everyday life, sometimes touching on the erotic in nature. Despite his devotion to the genre he also produced noteworthy landscape prints such as the ‘Eight Views of Edo’ (‘Edo Hakkei’) series, occasionally collaborating with Hiroshige I. Eisen is also known for his development of aizuri-e, which is a term that describes ukiyo-e that is printed only in shades of blue. This technique was popular in the 1830s and 1840s and has been employed by various artists, including Hokusai. He began an apprenticeship in art early on in life, studying with the Kano painter Hakkeisai. He later was looked after by Kikugawa Eiji and became known as a pupil of Eiji’s son, Kikugawa Eizan, who was his contemporary, through curious circumstances. The feudal lord of the Hishu province wanted to own all prints produced by Kikugawa Eizan’s students and received a collection of them, in which Keisai Eisen’s prints were included. Thereafter, Eisen was then considered to be Eizan’s student, too.

More Information
Print FormatHashira-e (Pillar Print)
ArtistEisen Keisai
SubjectMale & Female
Dimensions10.4 x 59.3 cm
Condition ReportCreases, paper residues around the edge due to previous mounting, top and bottom panels attached, lightly soiled.
PublisherNishimuraya Yohachi
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