Courtesans Strolling Beneath Cherry Trees Before the Daikokuya Teahouse
On View: Asian Galleries, North, 2nd floor (Japan)
Kitagawa Utamaro is known primarily for his images of beautiful women. This trio of prints is unusual because the artist names all of his subjects. The extravagantly dressed women are courtesans, indicated by their obi sashes tied at the front. (Women who are not in the sex trade—including the geishas who provide non-sexual entertainment at parties—tie their obis at the back.) Accompanied by child attendants, they admire the blossoming cherry trees that were transplanted to the entertainment district each spring. The colors in this triptych are remarkably well preserved: the dyes Utamaro used for light blue and lavender are very susceptible to fading and have turned gray in most other examples.
Woodblock print, color on paper
15 3/8 x 10 3/8 in. (39.1 x 26.4 cm) (show scale)
Publisher: Tsutaya Jūzaburō (Kōshodō)
Utamaro ga 歌麿画
Figures identified by inscription on each page:
Kasugano of the Ogiya (main courtesan) with child attendants (kamuro) Wakana and Kocho, apprentices Harusono, Harukinu, Harukaze, and Harukusa.
Yoshino of the Wakamatsuya (main courtesan) with child attendants Momiji and Shigeno, apprentices Mikishino, Yoshitaka, Yoshisato, and Yoshitomi
Nabiki of the Wakamatsuya (main courtesan) with child attendants Takeji and Kikuji, apprentices Ninae, Hanasumi, Nanasato, and Nanahime.
(Reading is courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Unclear how to read it because there are only 2 apprentices in the center and right pages, but more names listed)
Gift of the Estate of Charles A. Brandon, by exchange; purchased with funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Richard M. Danziger, Joan Easton, Mrs. Myron S. Falk, Jr., George S. Friedman, Mr. and Mrs. Mark Kingdon, Klaus F. Naumann, Robert Rosenkranz, and Mr. and Mrs. David Young and Asian Art Acquisition Fund
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Kitagawa Utamaro (Japanese, 1753-1806). Courtesans Strolling Beneath Cherry Trees Before the Daikokuya Teahouse, probably 1789. Woodblock print, color on paper, 15 3/8 x 10 3/8 in. (39.1 x 26.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Estate of Charles A. Brandon, by exchange; purchased with funds given by Mr. and Mrs. Richard M. Danziger, Joan Easton, Mrs. Myron S. Falk, Jr., George S. Friedman, Mr. and Mrs. Mark Kingdon, Klaus F. Naumann, Robert Rosenkranz, and Mr. and Mrs. David Young and Asian Art Acquisition Fund, 1995.137a-c (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1995.137a-c_PS4.jpg)
overall, 1995.137a-c_PS4.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2016
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
Oban tate-e triptych, woodblock print, color on paper. Three courtesans and their kamuro (child attendants) and shinzo (apprentices), identified by inscription, from right: Nabiki (Wakamatsuya), Yoshino (also fo the Wakamatsuya), and Kasugano (Ogiya), at the Daikokuya Teahouse, which had moved from Nakanocho to Ageyacho after the great 1787 fire, and apparently reopened in the spring of 1789, an event which is suggested by Prof. Asano Shugo (Chiba City Museum, Chiba City, Japan) to be celebrated by this design (see Utamaro, 1995, p. 57). Asano (conversation with A. Poster, 4/27/96) feels now that there may be five prints (making the design a pentaptych). Other versions are in the MFA, Boston, and Worcester Art Museum. No complete pentaptych survives.
The three sumptuously attired courtesans and their attendants are specifically identified. In the right-hand sheet, a tanzaku sheet hangs from the branches of the cherry tree with a poem by Yadoya Meshimori (1753-1830), later known as Rokujuen, founder of the Go-kawa poetry group and an important figure in the kyoka poetry movement.
Condition: Very good. Note keyblock lines and two tiny wormholes in each sheet. For extensive report, see Conservator's Report, 11/6/95. As of 5/6/96: Three sheets are matted separately and located in P&D storage, Sh. 10, Box 3G (Size 1 mats).
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