Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/316

This page has been validated.



long necks, which in turn swayed upon very narrow shoulders; the upper coiffure bulged out to such a degree that it almost surpassed the head itself in extent; the eyes were indicated by short slits and were separated by an inordinately long nose from an infinitesimally small mouth; the soft robes hung loosely about figures of an almost unearthly thinness. Finally, about the year 1800, Utamaro's tendency toward the bizarre had reached such a height that his heads were three times as long as broad and his figures more than eight times longer than the heads, thus considerably exceeding the normal ratio. In this period were produced the majority of his large female heads, which have spread his name so far abroad, by no means to the advantage of his artistic reputation.

But these exaggerations soon ceased and Utamaro returned to approximately natural proportions of the body. Thus his Chronicle of the Toshiwara, of 1804, in two volumes, the work which justly made him so celebrated, is in no way peculiar in this respect. In the triptychs again, which he produced in greater number than any other artist of his country, these unnatural proportions appear but seldom. Probably, therefore, these sheets were produced for the most part before or after the period of delirium, and the endless file of his single sheets and series representing women during it. One of these triptychs, wherein the dissolute life of the reigning Shogun (Generalissimo and real monarch of Japan), Iyenari, is ridiculed under the figure of the Taiko, an historic personage of olden times, drew down on Utamaro a term of imprisonment which broke his bodily strength. Still, in 1805, he created the beautiful triptych in which a group of children impersonating the Seven Gods of Fortune are drawn by women in a car which has the form of a ship.[1] In the following year, 1806, the

  1. Compare the New Year's Procession, or Carnival of Marduk, among the recently excavated Ai-ibar-shabu of Babylon. A. H. D.