UVaM - University of Virginia Art Museum


Kitagawa Utamaro
Japanese, c. 1753-1806
Komachi at Kiyomizu from the series The Seven Komachi as Two-Leaved Plants, c. 1800
Color woodblock print,
15 1/4 x 9 7/8 inches
Museum Purchase with funds from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation,

Ono no Komachi is considered one of the greatest of Japanese writers and, though real, became legendary for her beauty and talent, inspiring many writers and artists. She was sometimes depicted as ruthless and sometimes as a kind of saint. Here, Utamaro's love of beautiful women is combined with his love of children and of Japanese culture. This print is from a series that parodies the seven legendary episodes in the life of the ninth-century poet Ono no Komachi by comparing her to two-leaved plants or "little seedlings." Since all prints from this series include young children, the title suggests the fact that seedlings in Japan are equated with children. "Kiyomizu" refers to a place in Kyoto. Ono no Komachi is playing Blind Man's Bluff with the children. Such peek-a-boo playfulness is one of the delights of Ukiyo-e.