Suzuki Harunobu
Decorum: The Dressing of the Bride (ironaoshi)

Signed: Harunobu ga; chūban, 28.5 x 20.7 cm; nishiki-e with karazuri

From a series of the Five Virtues. The five cardinal virtues (gojō) according to Confucius as scenes from women’s lives. A bride’s traditional change of dress on her wedding day (ironaoshi) represents “etiquette”, whereby a blind pressing (karazuri) was undertaken for the woven pattern of the kimono. The red wedding kimono is draped over her shoulders. The caption accompanying the title “rei” (“etiquette”) states “Happy the person, / who thinks of his master, / serves his parents / and remains polite without becoming aggravated.”

Provenance: E. W. and A. Erlanger (J. C. Morgenthau, New York, April 1941); Walter Bareiss; R. E. Lewis, San Francisco (November 1972)
Riese Collection

The five Confucian virtues which are the subject of Harunobu’s set were derived from Byakko Tsūgi, “The Principles of the White Tiger”, a work of eclectic philosophy from the later Han period in China. The virtues included benevolence, justice, decorum, wisdom, and fidelity. In this picture a young woman is assisting a bride with her outer robe. The suggestion of marriage and a wife’s duty to her husband suits the title of the print and the moralizing verse which accompanies it:

Kimi o omoi
Oya ni kō ari
ikari naku
reigi o tsukusu
hito zo tanoshiki

One who loves her lord,
obeys her parents,
and is ...
without resentment
is happy indeed.

Aside from the calendar prints of 1765 and 1766 few colour prints by Harunobu can be exactly dated. One the following plate from this series, a writing lesson illustrating the virtue of wisdom, a folder of paper is inscribed 9/1767, and in fact this fit falls stylistically between the extreme simplicity of the earliest Harunobu designs and the complex and often mannered compositions of the late 1760s.
The series seems to have been popular and was copied twice, once in a smaller chūban format, and once in the upright hosoban format. The copies are unsigned and date from the early 1770s.
This print is in remarkably fine condition and is particularly noteworthy for the two patterns of embossing: a diamond pattern on white on the bride’s sleeves and a crepe pattern on her pink overrobe. On the back of the print is a certificates from the Old Prints Society (sic), Tōkyō (Konishiki-e Shinseikai) numbered 71 and with the hand-stamped red seal of the organization.

Another impression is reproduced in Art Institute of Chicago, p. 69, no. 109