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Comparing the Charms of the Five Beauties: The Suminoe at Shiba
The pictographs in the upper right corner represent five Japanese sounds that spell out “shibasuminoe”: samurai soldier (shi), a leaf with a diacritical symbol (ba), coal (sumi), field (no), and the handle of a ladle (e). Utamaro illustrated four other beautiful women. In this image, he captures her casual posture as she fixes her ornamental hairpin with her finger and thumb. This is an exquisite depiction. We can see a skillful technique in the depiction of her hairline: with the small hairs carved out carefully. This technique was developed as one of the methods to express beauty. Utamaro fully shows his dexterity in this piece.