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Shaving a Boy's Head - Kitagawa Utamaro - Japanese Edo period Ukiyo-e Woodblock Print Art Painting - Posters

While this print may be another example of Utamaro’s attempts to avoid censorship by depicting a seminude woman as a paragon of motherhood, the effect here is only minimally erotic. This is partly due to both the woman’s and the barber’s intense concentration on the slumbering child. And it is difficult not to sympathize with the young woman, who has become disheveled in her attempts to settle the child, perhaps finally resorting to breast-feeding him so he would fall asleep, allowing the barber to shave his head without mishap. There is the implicit suggestion that the woman was desperate to make use of this itinerant barber’s services while he was in the neighborhood.

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