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Woman Trying to Read in Bed

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Woman Trying to Read in Bed

late 18th Century
18th Century
14 7/8 in. x 10 1/4 in. (37.78 cm x 26.04 cm)

Utagawa Kunisada, Japanese, (1786–1864)

Object Type: Works on Paper
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Medium and Support: Color woodcut on paper
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. M. C. Sloss
Accession Number: 1945.113
Utagawa Kunisada was the most prolific and financially successful designer of ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) woodblock prints in 19th century Japan. One of his most common subject matters was bijin, beautiful women. Several of Kunisada’s more typical bijin-e are displayed in this exhibition, but in this piece he takes the subject a step further. We see a traditional Japanese woman, surrounded by brightly colored and intricately patterned fabric. While the foreground is very solid and detailed, the background is left largely free of ink, creating the ambiguity of setting and floating effect that ukiyo-e prints are known for. The woman tries to read in bed, but her son, peeking out from underneath the covers, bothers her and prevents her from completing the task. While the subject matter seems innocent enough, Kunisada, who also produced erotic prints, would have been aware of an erotic element to the piece: the implications of depicting a woman in bed with another figure, even her son, would have been viewed as very risqué at the time.

--Sadie Padial, December 2014

Exhibition List
This object was included in the following exhibitions:

Dimensions
  • Sheet Dimensions: 14 7/8 in. x 10 1/4 in. (37.78 cm x 26.04 cm)
  • Mat Dimensions: 24 in. x 20 in. (60.96 cm x 50.8 cm)

Bibliography List
This object has the following bibliographic references:


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