Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806) was one of the most influential artists working in the genre of ukiyo-e, 'pictures of the floating world,' in late eighteenth-century Japan, and was widely appreciated for his prints of beautiful women.
In 1804, at the height of his success, Utamaro published a set of prints related to a banned historical novel. The prints, titled Hideyoshi and his Five Concubines, depicted the military ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi's wife and concubines, and consequently, he was accused of insulting Hideyoshi's dignity. Utamaro was sentenced to be handcuffed for fifty days and is thought to have been briefly imprisoned. According to some sources, the experience crushed him emotionally and ended his career as an artist.
In this new expanded edition, Julie Nelson Davis draws on a wide range of period sources, makes a close study of selected print sets, and reinterprets Utamaro in the context of his times. Reconstructing the place of the ukiyo-e artist within the commercial print market, she demonstrates how Utamaro's images participated in a larger spectacle of beauty in the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo).