Hishikawa Moronobu, Scenes in a theatre tea-house, a handscroll painting

Japan
Edo period, AD 1685

The Ukiyo-e school of pictures of the 'floating world' developed out of the earlier vogue for paintings of urban life. By the end of the seventeenth century, the main subjects were the great pleasure quarters such as Yoshiwara in Edo, and the Kabuki theatres and their neighbouring tea-houses .

This painting is a fragment from a handscroll showing scenes from the interior of one of the theatre tea-houses (shibai-jaya). Other sections may have shown onstage scenes in the theatre itself. As in Kabuki all the actors were men, so here the figures are all male, some of them trainee female impersonators (onnagata). The younger onnagata also sometimes worked as homosexual prostitutes, and the tea-houses provided a convenient venue for meetings with their rich patrons. At the centre right a blind masseur is at work on the shoulders of a client attended by one young actor serving sake while another plays the shamisen. Another actor entertains a wealthy samurai client in a bedroom area, furnished with quilts and a large mosquito-net.

The painting is also interesting for the depiction of interior decor, with tatami mats, scroll paintings displayed in the alcove at the back, a sliding fusuma door decorated with a scene of snowy pines, and the lacquered furniture.

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Hishikawa Moronobu, Scenes in a theatre tea-house, a handscroll painting

  • Hishikawa Moronobu, Scenes in a theatre tea-house, a handscroll painting

    Hishikawa Moronobu, Scenes in a theatre tea-house, a handscroll painting

 

More information

Bibliography

L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

T. Clark, Ukiyo-e paintings in the Briti (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

M. Narasaki (ed.), Hizō Ukiyo-e taikan, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987)

Dimensions

Height: 315.000 mm
Width: 1470.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP 1375 (1881.12-10.1710)

JCF1418

William Anderson Collection

Location

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