by Inigo del Castillo in New Art on Wednesday 12 February 2014

‘Ukiyo-e’, translated as ‘pictures of the floating world’, are prints and paintings that recorded everyday scenes during the Tokugawa Shogunate of the Edo period (1614-1868) in Japan. Usually, the subjects would range from celebrated courtesans of the Yoshiwara district, Kabuki theatre actors, sumo wrestlers, and average people doing their everyday activities. So it’s much like those set of paintings that portrayed Japanese men having farting competitions against each other, except more sanitary.

The following images are colour woodcut prints from Ukiyo-e master Kitagawa Utamaro, who specialized in painting women, both famous and not-so-famous, doing their daily activities such as breast feeding, tying their hair, and kanoodling with boys. The woodcuts are a part of the New York Public Library’s 1,763 ukiyo-e print collection, which were a 1901 gift from Charles Stewart Smith.