Prolific printmaker Utagawa Kunisada produced this seascape of abalone fishing as part of a series of untitled landscape prints in the early Tenpō era (1830–44). In the coastal city of Ise on Japan’s main island of Honshu, female divers called ama traditionally did the physically demanding job of harvesting shellfish such as abalone. These marine snails are valuable for their edible flesh, and their iridescent inner shell is a source of mother-of-pearl. This print depicts three stages of the harvest: One diver plunges into the water, another holds her breath while prying an abalone off the rocks with a blade, and a third ama conveys her successful harvest to the beaming fishermen on the boat.
Abalone Divers off the Coast of Ise, from an Untitled Landscape Series
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