Kyotani - 5434

Kyotani, Tokyo school

Woman combing her Hair
II half 19th century
3,1x3,5x2,5 cm
京谷 (Kyotani)
2005 bequest Maria Taglietti Lanfranchi
Inv. 5434

The netsuke depicts a  woman naked from the waist up while combing her long wet hair (kamisuki, 髪隙), after she has washed them in a tub full of water placed in front of her. At her side there is a box with a lid on which she holds the towel she used to dry her hair. The two holes of the himotoshi, of similar size and of a nearly oval shape, are located under the piece, next to the signature Kyotani (京谷). Washing and cleaning the body is an ancient tradition associated with Shintoism. However, in the past only rich people could afford private bathrooms, while in the city common people used public baths, places that ended up having also a social gathering function. Many Japanese artists took advantage of public baths to study the nude.

There is no biographical information about Kyotani (Kyogoku) that probably was active in the Meiji era (1868-1912). Some okimono, produced for the export market, with a very similar signature is known.