Chōbunsai Eishi (1756-1829)
Early Afternoon at the Country House
Japan, Edo period, c. 1790
Woodblock print triptych; ink and color on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1991
Honolulu Museum of Art
Both the triptych format, and the geometric organization of the stately figures in staged groupings reveal the influence of Kiyonaga, whose innovative compositions transformed ukiyo-e in the 1780s (indeed, this triptych makes for an interesting comparison with Kiyonaga’s A Sudden Squall at Mimeguri Shrine from a few years earlier, and might very well depict the same area of Mukōjima in the background). Although triptychs expanded marketing possibilities for selling groups of prints, as is often the case, Eishi arranged each print so that it could stand as an independent work.
At the same time, the balance between the three women preparing tea in the right print and the three caring for pet birds in the left print, the leftward gazes of the two women in the center, matched by the rightward gaze of the woman standing in the left print, and the continuation of the background landscape of rice paddies across all three prints, establishes a convincing overall coherence. The subtle detail of a line of geese flying in the distance marks the season as autumn.