Kitagawa Utamaro 喜多川歌磨 (1763–1806)
Feigning Sleep
From the series Picture Book: Pulling Komachi (Ehon Komachi biki)
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 1802
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1991

In this image by Utamaro, a couple reclines on their side. In the lower left corner of the composition appears the woman’s head, her closed eyes giving the impression that she is asleep. The head of her partner, appearing above and behind hers, is tilted upward and slightly towards the viewer. As the viewer’s eyes drift to the right half of the composition, the position of the figures transpose: the man’s hips and legs appear in the foreground, his quadriceps facing away from the viewer, and his knees fully bent so that his heels nearly touch his buttocks. In an equally contorted pose that reveals her to be fully awake, the woman’s pelvis rests on top of his, and her left leg rises into the air at a dramatic angle.

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