太閤五妻洛東遊観之図 A View of the Pleasures of the Taiko and His Five Wives at Rakutō
Kitagawa Utamaro (Japanese, ca. 1754–1806)
Edo period (1615–1868)
Triptych of polychrome woodblock prints; ink and color on paper
15 x 30 in. (38.1 x 76.2 cm)
Gift of Estate of Samuel Isham, 1914
Not on view
This triptych, published in 1804, portrays the famous cherry-blossom viewing party that Hideyoshi held in 1598. Ostensibly an innocent historical scene, its subject, the shogun whose heirs were overthrown by the ancestors of the ruling Yokugawa family was full of significance to the townsmen of Edo, who chafed under the restrictive and corrupt government. For his defiance of the official of ineffectual ban on this theme, Utamaro was jailed and spent fifty days in hand chains. This, combined with the extreme loss of inspiration and support he suffered with the death in 1797 of his friend and publisher Tatsuya, seems to have broken his spirit. Utamaro's final years are not represented by prints of the quality that marks the dazzling designs of the 1780's and 90's.
Signature: Utamaro hitsu
Estate of Samuel Isham , New York (until d. 1914; donated to MMA)
New York. Asia Society. "Undercurrents in the Floating World: Censorship and Japanese Prints," October 9, 1991–January 5, 1992.