Artist: Isoda Koryūsai (礒田湖龍斎)

Print: A bijin admiring morning glories (朝顔を見る美人)

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Dates: created,1775
Dimensions: 4.75 in,26.75 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Koryūsai ga (湖龍斎画)

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Keio University;

Physical description:

This beauty stands musing in a private moment over a morning glory plant while holding a toothbrush near her mouth.


Illustrated in:

1) The Japanese Pillar Print: Hashira-e by Jacob Pins, page 152, #301.

2) a small black and white reproduction in the Illustrated Catalogues of Tokyo National Museum: Ukiyo-e Prints (1), #750.


This print is listed as #4 'Young woman in front of engawa looking at morning glory (asagao peom)' in appendix 3; section B: 'Bijinga One Woman per Design' in Allen Hockley's book on Koryūsai, p. 240, unillustrated.


The color of the woman's robe in the Lyon Collection example has kept more of its reds than has the one like it in the Museum of Fine Arts. Everyone familiar with 18th century prints, especially pillar prints, knows that they almost all of them have lost their original freshness and intensity. What is left for us to appreciate is more a matter of design than coloring.

Based on what we know today and through extrapolation, we can assume that the area behind the engawa and above the bamboo hedge was originally a lovely, rich blue. However, that blue would have been made from the dye of the dayflower which is known to be an absolutely fugitive color whether exposed to the air and light or not. Our guess for the original coloration of the shibori dyed obi she is wearing would be that it was probably created with another organic pigment which gave it a striking purple tone. Without a complete scientific examination we cannot know for sure.

This leaves the viewer with a less than perfect appreciation for this charming hashira-e. Yet, with a little imagination, one can picture this print as it once must looked.


Two short quotes from Allan Hockley's book on Koryūsai are worth mentioning here.

"Most extant hashira-e, moreover, are faded, blackened, and stained, indicating extensive exposure to light, soot, smoke, and the general wear and tear of continuous use."

"The tremendous number of hashira-e Koryūsai produced suggest that the market for pillar prints was insatiable. Koryūsai's compositional innovations certainly made his hashira-e uniquely attractive visual experiences."


The inscription reads:

朝顔や 水の溢るゝ 瑠璃の色