Important original woodblock print, made in a period between 1806 and 1818 by the artist Kitagawa Utamaro II (二代目喜多川歌麿). The work is entitled “The Cloth-fulling Jewel River” (梼衣玉川) and is taken from the series “The Fashionable Six Jewel Rivers of the Floating World” (風流浮世六玉川). The scene is set in the ancient Settsu Province (摂津国) and the woman on the left is pounding cloth with a kinuta (砧) mallet, a reference to the homonymous river visible behind the couple.
The “Six Jewel Rivers”, in Japanese “Mu-tamagawa” (六玉川), was a popular subject among publishers and artists of the ukiyo-e (浮世絵) genre: it represented six rivers from six different provinces. The popularity of this subject developed as a response to the construction, in the mid 17th century, of the great aqueduct which, drawing water from the Tama River (玉川), served the Musashi Province (武蔵国), which also included today’s Tokyo. The artists did not treat this subject only as meisho-e (名所絵), that is “pictures of famous places”, but also as allusive pictures of the mitate-e (見立絵) genre, depicting beautiful women who, as in the case of the woodblock print presented here, were situated in a context related to mu-tamagawa.
The rare print on Japanese washi paper (和紙), produced by the publisher Yamaguchiya Tobei (山口屋藤兵衛), owner of Kinkodo (錦耕堂), despite the right signs of aging, is in overall good condition.