On November 11th, 262 lots will go under the hammer at the Japanese Art & Design auction at Christie's (King Street) in London, including 79 Japanese print lots. Amongst the prints on offer is a design from the series Karitaku hakkei yûkun no zu (Eight Views of Courtesans in Temporary Lodgings) by Utamaro. The design, which is not illustrated in Shibui's Ukiyo-e Zuten, was published by Tsuruya Kiemon in 1794, and depicts two courtesans set against a yellow background. The young woman to the left appears to be readying herself before taking a bath, holding a cotton towel in her hands as she prepares to exit the scene, whilst her companion, seated on the ground to the right with her hair arranged in the gikei style, is busy composing a letter and is resting her chin against her hand as she contemplates her next brush strokes.
The karitaku, or 'temporary lodgings', were established when the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter suffered fire damage, as was the case in 1794 when, on the second day of the fouth month at around 10 o’clock at night, a fire broke out in Edomachi. The brothel-keepers would apply for permission to set up temporary accommodation, and permission would be granted without delay under the provision that, while the residents of the Yoshiwara were carrying out business in the temporary quarter, certain restrictions were observed. Official instructions issued following the establishment of the karitaku in 1794 stated that courtesans were not permitted to wear garments which were considered to be overtly attractive. In addition to this, they were not allowed to go outside of the houses which were being used as temporary brothels, or to display themselves, even within the houses, in a manner which might be visible from outside and attract passers-by. Despite these restrictions, and the fact that the temporary facilities were much smaller than the permanent ones, the number of guests who visited the Yoshiwara's courtesans increased dramatically during their stay in the karitaku.
This print, along with one from the series Fûryû mutamagawa (Elegant Six Jewel Rivers), is lot no. 9, and the two designs are expected to fetch in the region of £3,500-4,000.
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