Kunisada: Courtesan Holding Hairpiece

Utagawa Kunisada

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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)
Title: Front kanzashi Hairpins (mae-zashi)前ざし
Series: Parody of Board Game Sixteen Musashi (Mitate ju-roku Musashi)見立十六むさし
Date: 1862

A courtesan is in the process of having her hair styled, and she holds in her hands a front hair piece with attached kanzashi hairpins (mae-zashi), preparing to hand it to the hairdresser behind her. Although it was considered best for women to do their own hair, the complicated new hairstyles of the time required professional kamiyui, hairdressers who specialized in courtesans. Atop the cartouche at left we see a game board of the Sixteen Musashi Game. The series title cartouche in red is next to the round cartouche with the title, mae-zashi. 

Within the inset roundel we see a small chest of drawers that contains various combs and other items necessary to create an elaborate hairstyle. It seems as if it has just been unpacked from a furoshiki wrapping cloth. The numbered three drawers of the small chest bear the characters “sho chiku bai”(pine, bamboo and plum), the combination of plants which survive the severity of winter and are thus used as symbols of a happy occasion. A flat box in front contains hairstyling items wrapped in white papers, or perhaps white paper that may be used in the process of hairdressing. We see a hairpin sticking out of a drawer in a dark box as well.  A kiseru, a long tobacco pipe, indicates that the courtesan would smoke the pipe while the hairdresser was busy with his work.

The title of each print in this series carry the word “sashi“ (or zashi) referring to the same phonetic of “Musashi“. The word „sashi“ has many different meanings according to the different kanji used. Here means "(to make) a move“ at a game. There is a meaning of "to stab“ and actually kanzashi were often used to stab in stories of the time.

 So far I could find ten titles of this series: yubi-sashi (pointing a finger), yóji-sashi (tooth pick case), hari-sashi (pincushion), zeni-sashi (chain of coins), kokoro-zashi (a small present), omoi-zashi (thinking of him), baka-no-me-zashi (skewer of fool ), jó-zashi (letter rack), kiseru-zashi (tobacco pipe box), and kanzashi (hair pins). (With thanks to Michiko Sato-Grube for her above description.)

Condition: Excellent impression, and color. Very good condition. Some minor restored binding holes.
Dimensions: ôban 35.8 x 25 cm
Publisher: Hiro-oka Kosuke
Signature: Kiyo Toyokuni ga  (Toyokuni, old man of 77)

SKU: KUS487


Language
English
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