Enlarge Image

The Printer's Eye: Ukiyo-e from the Grabhorn Collection

Woman holding an umbrella
approx. 1740s, by Ishikawa Toyonobu (Japanese, 1711–1785)
Woodblock print; ink with hand-applied color on paper

The narrow pillar print, or hashira-e, format is used to advantage in this work not only to showcase the subject's figure and beautiful face but also to display her fashionable attire and hairstyle. A broad-faced beauty with heavy, sensual expression stands delicately on flaring "ginko leaf " geta (wooden clogs), revealing tiny bare toes. Her hair is done up fashionably with an upper section wound at the back in a figure eight around a distinctly patterned tortoiseshell hair bar (kōgai), then further adorned with a matching tortoiseshell comb and a double crane lozenge–shaped openwork hairpin (kanzashi). The most unusual aspect of this print is the woman's ivy-patterned raincoat, with its standing collar, cord fasteners, and bow-tied sleeves. This kind of sleeved raincoat (sodekappa) may have been derived from the coats of Portuguese missionaries and traders, and altered to fit the shape of traditional Japanese clothing. The woman's sultry expression, the glimpses of flesh, and the massive, protruding snake-eye umbrella (janome) give this print a latent eroticism that is heightened by its compressed vertical format. Melissa M. Rinne

Courtesy of Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, Gift of the Grabhorn Ukiyo-e Collection , 2005.100.17.

Image © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.