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Sode ga ura, the Bay of Sleeves, part of triptych

Utagawa Toyokuni I

Artwork Details

Sode ga ura, the Bay of Sleeves, part of triptych
early 1790s - mid 1790s
Utagawa Toyokuni I
Large full-color woodblock print (ôban nishiki e), triptych
14 in. x 9 3/4 in. ( 35.56 cm x 24.77 cm )
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker

On Display

Not currently on display


An important innovation in print designs of the 1780s had been Torii Kiyonaga’s introduction of outdoor settings for his “beautiful women.” Here Toyokuni is once again working in Kiyonaga’s mode; the difference with Kiyonaga’s Takanawa print of a decade earlier (also on view in the gallery) shows how much Edo print artists had learned about representing three-dimensional space in the interim. The new sophistication may be attributed in part to the influence of European prints, filtered through many intermediaries.
The seaside was the outdoor summer playground of Edo: there were dozens of public beaches within a half-day’s walk of the city. Then as now, vendors set up wood-and-bamboo stalls to hawk savories such as roasted squid, or sweets made from red bean paste. In this panoramic view of Sode ga ura (the “Bay of Sleeves,” an inlet of Tokyo Bay), the foreground is filled with well-attired tourists, returning from a day at the shore. They carry a full array of seasonal paraphernalia: a sun parasol, fans, and toys as souvenirs for the children.
Maribeth Graybill, Senior Curator of Asian Art
"Courtesans, Cross-Dressers and the Girl Next Door: Images of the Feminine in Japanese Popular Prints"
March 9 - September 1, 2002

Subject Matter:

The Label Copy details most of the subject matter. 

Physical Description:

The last third of the triptych depicts two adult women, one young adult woman, and one younger girl. The young adult woman is on the left next to an adult. Moving towards the right, beside the adult is the younger girl flanked by another adult on the far right. The adult woman on the far right holds a black disk, most likely a toy. Everyone looks to the left. Below their line of sight is a cat interacting with the cats from the middle section of the triptych. Behind them is the bay with boats and the curve of the walking path along the coast. A bench sits directly behind them and a flag attached to a wooden pole with the words "Soe ga ura" is visible. To the bottom right is an inscription and two seals to its left. 

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