Who Will Be First to Select Among Courtesans in the Gay Quarter

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Who Will Be First to Select Among Courtesans in the Gay Quarter

by Toyohara Kunichika, 1869

IHL Cat. #501

About This Print

Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900) pictures one of the pleasure establishments in the Yoshiwara, the fenced and gated pleasure quarters in Edo.  A male customer coyly holds a fan while a bevy of courtesans vie for his attention.  His gift indicating his choice is being presented to the courtesan on the far right.  Many of the ukiyo-e portraying the Yoshiwara named the courtesans and often acted as advertisements for the pleasure establishments.

Several similarly themed prints by Kunichika are shown below.

Toyohara Kunichika
Kinpeirojuzo 新吉原江戸町壹丁目 金瓶楼上図

Nara Center for Historical Materials of Education http://www.nara-edu.ac.jp/ARCHIVE/UKIYOE/kinpeiro.htm
Toyohara Kunichika
Amusements at the House of the Golden Vase
(Kinpeirô yûge
金瓶楼遊戯), 1868
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #501
 Title (Description) Who Will Be First to Select Among Courtesans in the Gay Quarter (Kinpeibai Sato no Sakigake 金瓶梅廓魁)
 Artist  Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900)
 Signature Kunichika hitsu
 Seal  toshidama seal below signature
 Publication Date
1869 (Meiji 2) 4th month
Tsunoi 津ノ伊 seal of Tsunokuniya Isaburō;  [Marks: 21-188, publisher ref. 552]
Hori Chō 彫長  (right panel) and Katada Hori Chō (left panel)1
 Impression good
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - not backed, separate sheets, minor soiling, horizontal center fold, corners reinforced from back
 Genre ukiyo-e
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
14 1/2 x 9 3 /4 in. (36.8 x 24.8 cm) each sheet
 Collections This Print
 Waseda University Library b0230

1 The Katada Chōjirō family of carvers were originally established as ‘specialists in calligraphy carving’ (jishō) and later expanded into working as ‘specialists in pictures’ (kaichō).  The seals of ‘Katada Hori Chō’, ‘Hori Chō’ and ‘Horikō Chō’ appear on Kunichika’s work from his early period.  (Source: Time Present and Time Past: Images of a Forgotten Master: Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900), Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing, 1999, p. 161.)