Presenting the Yoshiwara in Monochrome and Full Color: The Annual Events of the ‘Azure Towers,’ Illustrated

Date: 25 July 2018
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: UVA Special Collections
Lecturer: Julie Nelson Davis - Professor, History of Art, University of Pennsylvania

In 1804, artist Kitagawa Utamaro and writer Jippensha Ikku offered a sneak peek of the annual events of the licensed pleasure district, the Yoshiwara, to the readers in Edo. Their publisher, Kazusaya Chūsuke, bargained on this being a best-seller and issued the book in two printings—one in full color and one in monochrome—and the book has become one of the most famous in the history of the illustrated book in Japan. In this presentation, I will address how looking closely at the materiality and presentation of text and image in this title changes how we understand authorship and the legacy of the artist. The book’s structure, and its production in both a deluxe and plain variation, raise issues of text-image relationships and representation of the virtual presentation of the quarter. In addition, by focusing on copies held in the Pulverer Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian, this talk will also address the mobility and afterlife of this title into the present.

A National Endowment for the Humanities-Global Book Histories Initiative Lecture.