Artist: Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892)
Title: 30. Looking drowsy – a courtesan during the Meiji period
Series: Thirty-Two Aspects of Customs and Manners
Publisher: Tsujiokaya Kamekichi
A print from Yoshitoshi’s series ‘Thirty-Two Aspects of Customs and Manners’, which chronologically depicts different women from the Kansei era (1789-1801) to the Meiji era (1860-1912). The Kansei era was marked by reactionary reforms put in place to rectify the perceived excesses of the Japanese shogunate, limiting trade with other nations by enforcing a stricter closed door policy. In contrast, the Meiji era saw Japan opening up to the West and even adopting some of its culture and politics. Yoshitoshi interestingly depicts this dramatically eventful history through women of various background and sentiment.
This image shows a low ranked courtesan from the Meiji era, known as a shogi. She is shown reclining dozily in her daywear on a black lacquered pillow, suggesting that she is idly resting in the afternoon. The crimped lines in the detail of her coiffure present her hair as unkept and indicate a laziness about her character. Her robes are patterned in a vivid red tie-dyed asanoha with a purple collar of the same design, reflecting the interest in aniline dyes which were a novel importation in Japan during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Interestingly, Yoshitoshi’s signature is signed as if he is the artist of the painting on the screen which appears behind her.