Ukiyo-e prints, with their ephemeral subject matter of theater and other urban entertainments, were often acquired for the short term rather than for posterity. Collectors who did want to retain prints, however, could sew or paste them into accordion-style albums. When closed, these albums protected the prints from light and circulating air, preserving the colors. Because prints were combined according to the inclinations of the individual collector, each album is unique, reflecting personal taste and providing a window into what was fashionable at a given moment. This album consists exclusively of prints of celebrated actors, all published between 1847 and 1851. The state of preservation is close to ideal, allowing the present-day viewer to enjoy an authentic taste of mid-19th-century printed color.
Resource: Chelsea Foxwell and Anne Leonard, Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints, exh. cat. (Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, 2012), pp. 127–30.