Museums Home BMAGiC Home Search Browse BMAGiC Help About BMAGiC Contact Us

Colour Woodblock Print - The Handtowel or Woman of Good Character - from the series 'The Twelve Physiognomies of Beautiful Women'

View main imageView larger image
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

There are no additional images for this object.

Basic Information

Accession Number:1926P198
Collection:Fine Art Prints and Drawings
Date:1802 - 1804

Maker Information

Artist:Kitagawa Utamaro - View biography for Kitagawa Utamaro


'The Handtowel' is taken from the series 'The Twelve Physiognomies of Beautiful Women' in which beauty and character are likened to famous places as described in the handscroll. Specifically the woman is equated with seven famous beauty spots around Nikko, 50 miles north of present-day Tokyo, and the site of a mortuary temple of the Tokugawa clan.

The text inside the handscroll is translated as: This (series) compares the appearances of twelve beautiful women to the landscapes of twelve places in Japan, commenting on their lifelong behaviour and thoughts and revealing the different hues of their complexions. It may serve as a model to gentlemen (seeking) the Way of Pleasure'. The moralising verse is paradoxically set beside a realistic scene of the subject going to the bath-house. In her hand she carries a handtowel and changing robe. More than half of the original colour has survived in what is thought to be the only known impression with a grey background and full inscription.

Bequeathed by Henry Watson Smith, 1926.

Further Information

Production Period:19th century
School/Style:Japanese Print
Medium:Coloured woodblock print on handmade mulberry paper.


Height:392 mm
Width:260 mm