Azaleas: Woman Washing Her Neck, from an untitled series of beauties and flowers

Creator : Utagawa Toyokuni I
Title: Woman Washing Her Neck
Work Type: Woodblock Print
Date: c. 1812
Material: Woodblock Print, Ink and color on paper
Measurements: 27.9 x 25.6 cm
Repository: Museum of Fine Arts Boston
Subject: Woman bathing
Collection: William Sturgis Bigelow Collection
ID Number: 11.13638

Description: This print shows a beautiful woman washing over a small wooden tub. The gesture of the woman is natural and unbothered, with her head tilted to one side to scrub the back of her neck creating wonderful curves throughout the body. She holds a Prussian blue printed cloth for scrubbing herself, between dainty fingers. The woman’s black hair is pinned up with a golden hair comb. The swirled hairstyle creates the illusion of glistening hair from thin white brushstrokes among the stark black hair. Her skin is pale and is differentiated by the hue of the paper only by the black outline of the body. Her kimono is draped at her waist, exposing her bare chest for bathing.

The color pallet used is primarily earth-toned with browns, reds, and greens. Intricate details are shown within the geometric pattern of the kimono and details of rippling water in the tub. The composition reflects the sentiment of capturing the moment, with both the small wooden tub and kimono continuing off the page as if the viewer of this print is catching a quick glimpse of the scene. This bathing scene takes place under a blooming cherry blossom flower, symbolizing beauty, hope, and new life. The incorporation of this blooming branch also connects the woman with overarching Japanese themes of nature’s presence in all aspects of life. 

This print continues the long tradition of bathing depicted in Japanese woodblock prints. Scenes of bathhouses, outdoor onsen (hot spring), or personal baths are all done to show their cultural tradition in Japan.

Author: Hannah Smith

1 thought on “Azaleas: Woman Washing Her Neck, from an untitled series of beauties and flowers

  1. I have the black and white “version“ with no color it’s just the print that has not been painted. I see how beautiful this is with the colors and the robes and the lips and the flowers and now my black-and-white block print seems so boring. Oh my heart is broken

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