(Japan – )
35.4 x 23.7 cm
This work is from a fairly well-preserved concertina album which contains eight triptychs by two prominent print artists of the Meiji period, Adachi/Shōsai Ginkō and Toyohara/Yōshū Chikanobu. Except for the first triptych by Ginkō which depicts the Heian period court-lady Murasaki Shikibu, the author of the ‘Tale of Genji’, attending Empress Shōshi, all the other triptychs focus on wealthy, sophisticated contemporary women performing social activities like entertaining guests, gathering for tea ceremony, attending sewing classes or preparing decorations for the five major seasonal festivals. This triptych depicts upper-class ladies reading and writing in elegant interior.
In line with the increasing concern of Japanese government officials to teach moral values to the new generation in the early 1890s, a number of books were published concerning proper behaviour for women. Serving as manuals, many of those were entitled “Ladies’ Etiquette” ('Onna Reishiki') and described how women, especially those of the upper-class, should dress and act in various social events, giving them detailed instructions on the proper way to sit, bow, serve tea, welcome guests, how to spend their past time etc. Great attention has been paid to the rich colour and pattern of the kimono, suggesting that these prints might have functioned as fashion plates for wealthy ladies. Especially Ginkō’s prints were deluxe editions, made upon commission and used luxurious techniques such as blind printing.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, December 2008.