Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806)
Lover of Loud Noises, from the series Eight Views of Popular Things
Japan, Edo period, c. 1800
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1987
Honolulu Museum of Art
This print depicts a child testing the limits of his mother’s patience with a toy commonly known as a “poppin.” Imported from Europe through Dutch trade missions, the poppin consisted of a glass pipe flaring to a bell that would produce a loud popping noise when air was blown through it. The toy seems to have been popular during the artist’s time, and he depicted it more than once.
Although Utamaro was intimately connected with the Yoshiwara through his main publisher Tsutaya Jūzaburō, who was born in the pleasure quarter and specialized in images of it, his depictions of beauty were not limited to courtesans, and included a wide range of feminine types, from teahouse waitresses to icons of motherhood, as in the present work. Typical of Utamaro’s mature period, the print shows a high level of technical refinement, with the artist’s exquisite sense of line effectively captured in the carving of the blocks, a tightly controlled composition reduced to its essential elements for clarity, and a subtle harmonization of color.