This beautiful triptych, published in 1887, is originally from an album containing eight triptychs by two prominent print artists of the Meiji period, Adachi/Shōsai Ginkō and Toyohara/Yōshū Chikanobu. Except for the first triptych by Ginkō which depicts the Heian period court-lady Murasaki Shikibu, the author of the “Tale of Genji”, attending Empress Shōshi, all the other triptychs focus on sophisticated women performing social activities like entertaining guests, gathering for tea ceremony, attending sewing classes or preparing decorations for the five major seasonal festivals.
This triptych depicts a group of ladies in gorgeously decorated kimono reading and writing, or perhaps learning/practicing their reading and writing.
In line with the increasing concern of Japanese government officials to teach moral values to the new generation in the early 1890s, a number of books were published concerning proper behavior for women. Serving as manuals, many of those were entitled Onna Reishiki (“Ladies’ Etiquette”) and described how women, especially those of the upper-class, should dress and act in various social events, giving them detailed instructions on the proper way to sit, bow, serve tea, welcome guests, how to spend their past time etc. Great attention has been paid to the rich color and pattern of the kimono, suggesting that these prints might have functioned as fashion plates for wealthy ladies. Ginkō’s prints, such as these, were deluxe editions, made upon commission and used luxurious techniques such as blind printing.
About the Woodblock Prints
This triptych of three vertical obans (two still attached as they were published connected as accordions), printed in 1887, is in very good condition. Clean versos. Some very small edge wear, but barely noticeable. Delicate colors and exquisite details, including fine bokashi shading and color transitions (see the kimono in the left panel of blue to pink with birds and grass leaves). Some minor discolorations throughout.
About the Artist
Adachi Ginkō (1870 – 1908) was a Japanese artist best known for prints in the ukiyo-e style as a member of the Utagawa school. Working in a variety of genres, including portraits of beauties and actors, landscapes, book illustrations, and satirical works, as well as a large number of triptychs of contemporary events. His most successful work was his Pictorial Outline of Japanese History series of triptychs in the late 1880s. He was jailed and fined in 1889 for caricaturing the Meiji Emperor.