1. What are these prints and who created them?
These are woodblock prints from the genre that's known as ukiyo-e in Japanese. Ukiyo-e were images of the floating world, or the ukiyo. These were pictures that usually glorified the exploits and circumstances from this urban world of attachments. All of these images are from a single artist, Utamaro, who was a 17th- and 18th-century Japanese artist.
The prints come from a series of 10 called A Parents Moralizing Spectacles. Most of his prints focus on the upper half of the female form and particularly on the face. The body is usually in some sort of dramatic or unusual pose, sometimes at an angle or with the arm in a strategic or sometimes erotic position. In the upper-right-hand corner of each of the prints, theres a pair of spectacles which reflects that the parents moralizing gaze is the perspective from which these women are seen. Each individual print has a title of the woman whos being depicted. Theres The Drunkard, The Know-it-all, The Gullible One, The Party girl, The Clever girl, and so on and so forth.
All of the images from this series represent not actual women but typologies of women of this floating world. They all appear to be in their 20s and 30s. They are beautiful women almost universally. This is a subculture that celebrates beauty and women. But these prints take a moralizing view of woman, and each one depicts a type of woman who manifests certain negative qualities. The application of a moralizing tone towards beautiful women deviated from the mainstream of the genre. How to read these prints, whether to see them in a didactic mode or a celebratory modethats one of the issues.
One possible factor behind the moralizing gaze is the fact that around 10 years earlier, there was a reform initiative from the government that involves the censorship of images and texts from this urban commoner culture. It is sometimes suggested that the commentary of these prints was added separately in order to get around the censorsthat the images themselves were not consistent with the messages that the government wanted to transmit. Its really in the commentary that we see an explicit disapproval of the kind of behavior that the commentator associates with the woman, but the picture conveys a very different message.
The artist was responsible for the image alone in this case, so we dont know for sure who produced the commentary. Very likely it would have been produced by the printer or the publisher.