Torii Kiyonaga
Flowers of Doteshita
c. 1783

Signed: Kiyonaga ga; ōban, 37.0 x 24.8 cm; nishiki-e with karazuri

From “Contest of Contemporary Beauties of the Pleasure Quarters” Doteshita was a less elegant pleasure quarter in Edo. A server from a teahouse is sitting on the right, a stately geisha to the far left, and in between, in a striped kimono, is presumably the madam of the brothel. With this series Kiyonaga reached the zenith of his ability as a draftsman. The woodblock prints were created between 1781 and 1783 in the classical style of ukiyo-e on which he had so much influence; it was characterized by the well-tempered elegance and female figures depicted in a heightened, yet seemingly realistic, manner.

Provenance: R. E. Lewis, San Francisco (December 1970)
Riese Collection #57

Doteshita was a quarter in Honjo, the eastern district of Edo where lower class courtesans lived. According to Miss Hirano, the seated woman at the right is a maid at the wayside teahouse, holding a cat in her lap. The stately woman at the left is a geisha, and the woman in the striped kimono standing between them is the mistress of a brothel. This is a splendid design from one of Kiyonaga’s finest sets, but only one other impression, in the Buckingham collection, Chicago, is known. Hana, “flowers”, usually means “cherry blossom”, and could indicate a season, but it is used as a euphemism for a beautiful woman, which would also be appropriate here.