Jul 17, 2014

Abalone Divers off the Coast of Ise, from an Untitled Landscape Series

Abalone Divers off the Coast of Ise, from an Untitled Landscape Series

early 1830s

Utagawa Kunisada 歌川 国貞

(Japanese, 1786–1865)


Yamaguchiya Tobei


Color woodblock print

Overall: 27.4 x 40 cm (10 13/16 x 15 3/4 in.)

Anonymous Gift 1916.944



Prolific printmaker Utagawa Kunisada produced this seascape of abalone fishing as part of a series of untitled landscape prints in the early Tenpō era (1830–44). In the coastal city of Ise on Japan’s main island of Honshu, female divers called ama traditionally did the physically demanding job of harvesting shellfish such as abalone. These marine snails are valuable for their edible flesh, and their iridescent inner shell is a source of mother-of-pearl. This print depicts three stages of the harvest: One diver plunges into the water, another holds her breath while prying an abalone off the rocks with a blade, and a third ama conveys her successful harvest to the beaming fishermen on the boat.

See also
Japanese Art
Japanese Art
Type of artwork: 
Credit line: 
Anonymous Gift

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