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Before the Mirror

A work made of color woodblock print.

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  • A work made of color woodblock print.


July 1916


Ito Shinsui
Japanese, 1898-1972

About this artwork

This young geisha has been caught in a private moment, absorbed in checking her hairstyle in front of a mirror. The volume of her figure and the depth of the image were intended to appeal to international audiences that preferred such realism. The print is inscribed with the word shihitsu (trial drawing), marking this work as the first collaboration between Itô Shinsui and the publisher Watanabe Shôzaburô, who had spotted the artist’s painting of this image and approached him as a partner.

The printer Ono Gintarô used the edge of his round, flat baren (a disk-shaped tool) to create swirling lines throughout the background. The rich red color that dominates this composition was achieved with natural dyes rather than the chemical-based aniline dyes favored in earlier prints from the Meiji period (1868–1912).


Currently Off View


Arts of Asia


Ito Shinsui


Before the Mirror


Japan (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Color woodblock print


44.2 × 29.3 cm (17 1/2 × 11 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Bequest of Henry C. Schwab

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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