Lantern Festival at Yoshiwara in Autumn: Masanagi of Tamaya
(Seiro no shutoro zu: Tamaya uchi Masanagi)
signed Eizan hitsu, publisher's seal To (Yamaguchiya Tobei, Kikodo), with gyoji (publisher's guild) seal Moriji (Moriya Jihei) and censor's seal kiwame (approved), ca. 1811-14
oban tate-e 15 by 10 1/8 in., 38.2 by 25.7 cm
The courtesan Masanagi of the famous Tamaya house casually leans against the railing of a second-story verandah while striking a pose emphasizing the enormous bow of her front-tied obi with a black and yellow koushi (lattice) pattern suggesting a bamboo fence contrasted against a luxe aubergine ground. Apparently uninterested in the evening's entertainments, she faces away from a group of dancers performing a suzume odori (sparrow dance) in the background as they parade below during the lantern festival in the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters. Her gobaishi (a charcoal grey achieved from gallnut) kosode is decorated with a white kanzemizu (swirling water) and bamboo leaf motif. Her first underrobe is pink with a white takewaku (rising steam) pattern, and a white and yellow checkered pattern on the collar of her innermost robe echoes the yellow squares on the grid pattern of her obi.
The somber colors of her outer layers, somewhat restrained for a courtesan, contrast with the decadent beni-red at the collar, wrists and hem, in a manner approaching the ethos of iki--an aesthetic of understated elegance embraced by stylish women that was associated with certain trendy neighborhoods in Edo by the early 19th century. Loosely translated as chic, defining (and achieving) iki then, and now, may be as elusive as defining (and achieving) 'cool' in popular culture of our own time.
Originally the left sheet a triptych, the complete triptych found in the collection of the Ota Memorial Museum of Art illustrate her companions, Fujiwara of the Tsuruya house seated in the center sheet; and Sugatano of Sugata-Ebiya house standing to the right.
Ota Memorial Museum of Art (www.ukiyoe-ota-muse.jp), Kikugawa Eizan: 150th Death Anniversary Special Exhibition, 2017 [2nd term] December 1st-20th, catalogue no. 142 (triptych)
inv. no. 10-5580)
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site last updated
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