Utagawa Kunisada (Utagawa Toyokuni III
Woman in a Mirror
c. 1822

Signed: Gotōtei Kunisada ga; Publisher’s logo (Azumaya Daisuke); censor’s seal: kiwame; ōban, 39.0 x 26.0 cm; nishiki-e with karazuri

From “Mirror with Make-up in the Modern Style”. The head of a young woman, who is just pinning up her hair, can be seen in a lacquered oval mirror. Kunisada’s later female figures seemed a bit contrived, while his early prints display a fresh beauty, the likes of which had not been seen since Utamaro’s time. In works like this, Kunisada created a new type of female beauty, which was later perfected by Kuniyoshi and other painters.

A. Lemp, Zurich (November 1961)
Riese Collection #104

In this rare series, which is one of Kunisada’s masterpieces, young women are shown reflected in mirrors as they apply make-up to their faces and fine their hair. The mirror is surrounded by a black lacquer case, and a sliding panel in the square handle allows for storage of toilet articles. Kunisada’s later figures of women tended toward mannerism and caricature, but his earliest prints breathe a freshness of beauty that ukiyo-e had lacked since the days of Utamaro. In prints like this he was creating a new type of female beauty that was refined and finally perfected by Kuniyoshi and others.

Other prints from this series are reproduced in Ukiyo-e Taisei, vol. 9, no. 131-136.

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 92.