Kashösai Shunsen

Lady in a snow-storm

Lady in a snow-storm by Kashösai Shunsen

Artwork Detail

Ukiyo-e (floating world) was the term given to moments of escape from highly structured Japanese society in the seventeenth century. Men could find solace and a temporary sense of control in the company of actors and beautiful courtesans. Colour woodblock prints of figures and events in this milieu were given the same name. Although little is written about Shunsen, he obviously moved away from the actor-genre favoured by his master Katsukawa Shunyei (1768-1819), who depicted performers with bold colours and solid forms. In Lady in a Snowstorm the figure is delicately drawn; if one looks closely, the snowflakes from which her umbrella protects her can be detected against the soft wash of the background. The ideogram in the top left-hand corner says 'Snow'. The bare toes of a geisha were considered particularly erotic, and courtesans were often forbidden to cover their feet, even in winter. The sight of a woman pulling at a piece of cloth with her teeth was also considered beautiful, so that an apparently simple movement to free her busy hands from her sleeve contains coded messages for the knowing spectator. Many French and English artists at the end of the nineteenth century were fascinated with Japanese bijinga (portraits of beautiful women), James Tissot for example depicting them as if viewed for a single moment, before they turn or walk away, out of the spectator's world. (from The Guide, 2001)

Lady in a snow-storm
Kashösai Shunsen
Production date
woodcut - nishiki-e (full colour) technique
368 x 257 mm
Credit line
Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1949
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
Not on display

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