Sunday, March 25, 2007

Amour II

Yoshiwara Impromptu (1797-98)

One of my projects at the A.I.C. is to photograph all the Utamaro
prints as they go on rotating display in the Buckingham Gallery

Because I'm a hopeless Utamaro fan --
and every print - for me - is like a big slice of chocolate cake
(not the Betty Crocker kind -- but the flourless, intense super-chocolate kind)

The above processional is no exception -
and I'm helpless with the way he drives that design over all seven sheets.

I've seen and enjoyed this piece before --
But what I didn't know -- until I read the label yesterday

is that this represents one of the historically famous processions of Korean ambassadors

except that all the participants are Geisha from the Yoshiwara pleasure district parading in the annual Niwaka Festival.

(isn't that horse a bit outrageous ?)

And these banners, although historically accurate
have characters that read "clear the way"
but are also homophones with
"grottoes damp with passion"

(while Korea was an important supplier to the Yoshiwara district
of what today would be called "Male Enhancement products")

This is, of course, a very different concept of "Amour"
than that presented last week by Maurice Denis.

"old love, new love, everything but true love"

There's just not a whole lot of idealism here --

(and don't those pointy-hatted girls above
remind you of that Angelic Houston movie
about the convention of witches )

Run for your lives, little boys, they'll turn you into mice !

There's something just a little overdone, ridiculous, and maybe a little sad about them

But this piece is so gorgeous !

This is the kind of design that only Lori could put in a photograph

and it's so much more sharply defined than the prints by Denis
-- where the misty romanticism is right on the edge of fading away


Blogger marlyat2 said...

Very lovely and amusing, Chris!

You know, it all starts to look rather sensuous after a while: those long horns the geishas blow on; the thrusting hats, their small top openings spouting the arabesque of a feather, etc.

Surely he was aware of all these visual puns...

March 26, 2007  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Korean ambassadors depicted as geisha? Pillow concepts swirling around a frequent enemy?

This may be the most exquisite political propaganda/cartoon/in-joke I've ever seen! "Clear the way" indeed.

His composition bristles with energy...makes me also wonder if there were specific geisha -- with their specific specialty skills -- depicted who would have been known to his audience. Would add a whole 'nother level of in-jokey meaning, eh?


March 31, 2007  

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