signed Kitao Shigemasa ga, ca. 1772
chuban tate-e 9 7/8 by 7 5/8 in., 25.2 by 19.3 cm
This print is from a series of twelve produced collaboratively with Katsukawa Shunsho (1726-1792), with each artist contributing six designs (Shunsho: 1, 3, 6, 8, 11; Shigemasa: 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10). The series illustrated various stages in the production of silk from silk worms, although in a few of the compositions, such as this one, the relationship to the actual cultivation of the worms or the production of silk is tangential at best. In this design three young beauties are presented in an interior, one kneels nearly prostrate to inspect a group of moths spread on a piece of paper. She is accompanied by another woman kneeling by her side, both appear to be counting the moths. To the left a young girl waits, holding a black lacquer box at the ready. In the background open shoji panels reveal a verandah and garden with a pine tree and flowering bushclover.
Sadao Kikuchi, A Treasury of Japanese Wood Block Prints: Ukiyo-e, Tokyo National Museum, 1963, cat. no. 435
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession number 11.19595