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Bijin Looking at Prints, from a series of Bijin with landscape cartouches

Bijin Looking at Prints, from a series of Bijin with landscape cartouches

Utagawa Hiroshige

Benten is the patroness of music and fine arts, beauty, knowledge, and wisdom. She became known as one of the Seven Gods of Fortune—deities of good fortune and wealth in Japanese mythology. A growing merchant class elevated her importance, and many temples and shrines were erected and dedicated to her. She was also popular with kabuki actors, geisha, and courtesans, whose livelihoods depended on good looks and mastery of the arts. This print depicts a beautiful woman kneeling over a stack of actor prints, including one of the actor Onoe Kikugoro III by Utagawa Toyokuni, held in her hand, and another of the actor Iwai Hanshiro V by Utagawa Kunisada on the floor before her. This is a rare and interesting example in which prints are shown being collected and viewed. It also demonstrates the immense popularity and dominance of Utagawa-school artists in the genre of kabuki actor prints.
Utagawa Hiroshige
(Japanese, 1797 - 1858)
Bijin Looking at Prints, from a series of Bijin with landscape cartouches
Color woodcut
15 3/16 x 10 3/16 in. Image
John H. Van Vleck Endowment Fund purchase
Accession No.


  • Mueller, Laura. "Competition and Collaboration: Japanese Prints of the Utagawa School." Leiden, The Netherlands: Hotei Publishing, 2007. p. 114, no. 79
  • Schlombs, Adele. "Hiroshige: 1797-1858." Koln, Germany: Taschen, 2007. p. 46
  • Elvehjem Museum of Art. "Bulletin/Biennial Report 1999-2001." Madison: Elvehjem Museum of Art, 2002. p. 79
  • Elvehjem Museum of Art. "Artscene." Vol. 21, No. 1, January- June 2004. p. 10

  • Utagawa: Masters of the Japanese Print, 1770-1900 : Chazen Museum of Art, 3/21/2008–6/15/2008
  • Acquisitions 1999-2002, A Selection: Elvehjem Museum of Art, 7/6/2002–8/25/2002

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