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Some young women using a megane-e device
Harunobu, c. 1760s Harunobu Guckspiegel.jpg
Some young women using a megane-e device
Harunobu, c.1760s

In Japanese art, a megane-e (眼鏡絵, 'optique picture') is a print designed using graphical perspective techniques and viewed through a convex lens to produce a three-dimensional effect. [1] The term derives from the French vue d'optique . The device used to view them was called an Oranda megane (和蘭眼鏡, 'Dutch glasses') or nozoki megane (覗き眼鏡, 'peeping glasses'), [2] and the pictures were also known as karakuri-e (繰絵, 'tricky picture').

Perspective boxes first appeared in Renaissance Europe and were popular until superseded by the stereoscope in the mid-19th century. [3] The Dutch brought the first such device to Japan in the 1640s as a gift to the shōgun . The devices became popular in Japan only after the Chinese popularized them in Japan [4] about 1758, [5] after which they began to influence Japanese artists. [4]

The artist Maruyama Ōkyo (1733–95) made serious study of imported perspective techniques and applied them to his painting. He gained an interest in making ukiyo-e prints through the artist Utagawa Toyoharu, who produced uki-e 'floating pictures' using linear perspective techniques. Ōkyo began making uki-e prints for viewing through a convex lens: megane-e. [5] Ōkyo later dismissed his megane-e, perhaps because their subjects were of kabuki and the pleasure quarters and thus considered of low artistic value. [6] Prints by artists such as Utamaro and Masanobu depict people enjoying megane-e. [7]

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Kanō Michinobu was a Japanese painter of the Kanō school of painting. He was the first appointed "inner painter" to the shōgun, to whom he remained close. Michinobu also used the art names Eisen (英川), Eisen'in (英川院), and Hakugyokusai (白玉斎).

Kabukidō Enkyō

Kabukidō Enkyō was a Japanese artist who designed ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Nothing is known of Enkyō's life, and only seven of his works are known, all of which are ōkubi yakusha-e, bust portrait prints of kabuki actors. Scholars divide them into two groups based on differences in the signatures, and the second group appears to be a set, as the prints depict three brothers from the same play. Enkyō's identity has been subject to speculation: a student of Sharaku's, even Sharaku himself, or a kyōgen playwright.

Nishimura Shigenaga

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Kitagawa Tsukimaro was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist. He was one of the most successful students of Kitagawa Utamaro, from whom he took the -maro. His early works bear the name "Kikumaro", first written 菊麿 until 1802, then 喜久麿 until he changed it in 1804 to "Tsukimaro".

<i>Fujin Sōgaku Jittai</i> and <i>Fujo Ninsō Juppin</i>

Fujin Sōgaku Jittai and Fujo Ninsō Juppin are the titles of what may have been two series of ukiyo-e prints designed by the Japanese artist Utamaro and published c. 1792–93. Only five prints from one series and four from the other survive, and one print appears in both series, so that eight distinct prints are known. The two series may have been made up of the same prints, or they may have been the same series with a title change partway through publication.

<i>Sugatami Shichinin Keshō</i>

Sugatami Shichinin Keshō is the title of what was likely a seven-print series by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Kitagawa Utamaro. Only one print from the presumed series is known, and is believed to be of the tea-house girl Naniwa O-Kita.

<i>Shinagawa no Tsuki</i>, <i>Yoshiwara no Hana</i>, and <i>Fukagawa no Yuki</i>

Beginning in the late 18th the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Kitagawa Utamaro produced three hanging-scroll paintings for the prominent merchant Zenno Ihē. The themes of the paintings are "moon", "flowers", and "snow", and are named Shinagawa no Tsuki, Yoshiwara no Hana, and Fukagawa no Yuki

The Ukiyo-e Ruikō is a Japanese collection of commentaries and biographies of ukiyo-e artists. It did not appear in print during the Edo period in which it was produced, but was circulated in handwritten copies subject with numerous additions and alterations. The writer Ōta Nanpo produced the first version in 1790.


  1. Fujii 2004, p. 80.
  2. Screech 2002, p. 99.
  3. Fujii 2004, pp. 80–81.
  4. 1 2 Leibsohn & Peterson 2012, p. 45.
  5. 1 2 Fujii 2004, p. 81.
  6. North 2010, p. 177.
  7. Fujii 2004, p. 82.

Works cited

  • Fujii, Shigeru (2004). "眼鏡絵". 眼玉の道草. Bungeisha. pp. 80–86. ISBN   978-4-8355-4803-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Leibsohn, Dana; Peterson, Jeanette Favrot (2012). Seeing Across Cultures in the Early Modern World. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN   978-1-4094-1189-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • North, Michael (2010). Artistic and Cultural Exchanges Between Europe and Asia, 1400-1900: Rethinking Markets, Workshops and Collections. Ashgate Publishing. ISBN   978-0-7546-6937-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Screech, Timon (2002). The Lens Within the Heart: The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo Japan. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN   978-0-8248-2594-2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)