Mitsuuji with Mountain Roses (Yamabuki), from the series “Six Jewel Faces” (Mu tama-gao)

Utagawa Kunisada Japanese

Not on view

Mitsuuji, the samurai protagonist of A Fraudulent Murasaki’s Rustic Genji, is shown in this half-bust portrait on a fan print. His “lobster-tail” topknot, flipped forward and split in front (not how elite samurai actually wore their hair), became a trademark feature of depictions by Utagawa Kunisada and his disciples. The colorful background, with explosions of tie-dyed floral motifs, is a reminder of how Kunisada made all his thousands of Genji-print designs a visual record of different textile patterns of the day.

The title Six Jewel Faces (Mu tama-gao), along with its allusion to the literary theme of Six Jewel Rivers, suggests that this set of fan prints captures the appearance of a half-dozen attractive individuals, and, indeed, the other five works in the set show images of beautiful women, mostly courtesans of the pleasure quarters.

Mitsuuji with Mountain Roses (Yamabuki), from the series “Six Jewel Faces” (Mu tama-gao), Utagawa Kunisada (Japanese, 1786–1864), Uncut fan print; ink and color on paper, Japan

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