Torii Kiyonaga
Beauties Viewing Cherryblossoms

Signed: Kiyonaga ga; ōban diptych, 39.0 x 52.0 cm; nishiki-e with karazuri, shōmenzuri and gomazuri

From “Fashionable Eastern Brocade”. Early coloured woodblock prints like this masterpiece by Kiyonaga were called nishiki-e (“brocade pictures”) because of their vivid colours. Edo was located in Eastern Japan, thus a poetic expression for the east – “azuma” – was combined with “nishiki”, in order to indicate that these were products from Edo: “Eastern brocade”. Since the clothing and patterns of the kimono in ukiyo-e played an important role, the term for this luxurious material was then applied to woodblock prints.

Provenance: Louis Gonse (Hotel Drouot, Paris); Dorothy Bess, Ashville, N.C.; N. Chaikin, Tolochenaz (June 1967)
Riese Collection #58

This gorgeous and stately print is one of the masterpieces from Kiyonaga’s famous series of “Eastern Brocade”. Because of their brilliant colour, the early full colour woodblock prints were called nishiki-e, or “brocade pictures”. Edo was in eastern Japan, and a poetic word for East, Azuma, was linked with nishiki to suggest that woodblock prints were a product of Edo: Eastern Brocade. Since clothing and kimono patterns were so important in woodblock prints, it was appropriate that the word for the material should be used to describe them.
  Complete impressions of this diptych are presently in Chicago, New York, the Louvre, and in the Vever collection. Pirano’s description of the subject differs somewhat from this impression: The kimono of the woman lighting a pipe is reddish-purple in her description, not grey as here, and she describes the sash of the woman standing upright in the left panel as being red, not yellow. Whatever the explanation for these minor differences, these impressions are remarkably early, fresh, and fine.

Reproduced in: Riese, Asiatische Studien, 1972, p. 93, no. 17.