VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Umegawa and Chubei
14337 I
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Kitagawa Utamaro was one of the most renowned and popular artists of ukiyo-e. He is known to study under artist Toriyama Sekien. Later he moved to the house of famous publisher Tsutaya Jyusaburo and adopted his family name Kitagawa. In 1790s he started publishing okubi-e bijin-ga, or shoulder-length portraits of beauties. The life of courtesan was the main subject matter of Utamaro’s creative work. Utamaro made the series entitled “Manipulations of Love with Musical Accompaniment” in 1801 – 1802. It consisted of nine sheets depicting famous romantic stage plays. The engraving gives a close-up view of young actors standing behind the screen with puppets of large size were employed and only male actors were allowed, but is one of the amateur performances with marionettes, which were so popular during the Edo period (1603 – 1868) and took place in the houses of nobility. The puppeteers play out the vignette about lovers Chubei and Umegawa from the play of famous playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon “Ciurier to Hell”. The play narrates the story, how Chubei spent the money stolen from his master to redeem his beloved from the license quarters. Persecuted by authorities, the lovers have to commit double suicide in the end. The artist makes no appreciable difference between depiction of humans and puppets, as if comparing two puppeteers with a pair of marionettes. He draws a parallel between mutual relations of both pairs. The boy puppeteer seems to be concerned more with the presence of his partner, than with the performance, for he looks after the girl at his side, not on his puppet.

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Type
Print 
Materials
Paper, colour woodblock print 
Measurements
36,5x25,0 cm 
Creator name
Kitagawa Utamaro 
Creator date
1753 – 1806 
Where it was made
Japan  
Geography
Japan  
Time period
AD 18th century ~ AD 18th century 
Creation date
Reprint of the late 19th century 
Function
 
Acquisition
 
Copyright
The State Museum of Oriental Art 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
 
Museum
The State Museum of Oriental Art 
Credit line
 

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