Artist: Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892)
Title: ‘Attakasou’ A widow of the Kansei era (1789-1801)warming herself
Series title: Fuzoku Sanjuniso (Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners)
Publisher: Tsunashima Kamekichi
Dimensions: 23.8 x 35.6 cm
First edition print.
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.
The cosy winter portrait shows a widowed wife under the warmth of a Japanese kotatsu (a charcoal brazier under a table frame and covered by a blanket). Keeping her company is her cat, upon which she rests her novel. The cats fur is embossed through karazuri (lit. ‘blind printing’), adding to the intricate textures of the kotatsu cloth and the fashionable widow’s elegant winter robes. The lady’s eyebrows have been shaved, suggested in the design by a blue shadow. This practice of married women continued till the end of the nineteenth century.