Kitao Masanobu, The courtesans Hinazuru and Chōzan a coloured woodblock print

Edo (Tokyo), Japan
Edo period, AD 1784

From the album Yoshiwara keisei shin bijin-awase jihitsu kagami ('A Contest of New Yoshiwara Courtesans with Examples of their Calligraphy')

The artist Kitao Masanobu (1761-1816) also wrote novels under the pen-name Santō Kyōden. He established himself as the chief guide and a leader in taste in the exclusive world of the high-ranking courtesans of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter of Edo.

The popularity and influence of the pleasure quarters were at their height in the 1770s and 1780s. Many artists, including Harunobu, Kōryūsai, Shigemasa and Kiyonaga competed with each other in producing sumptuous tributes to the courtesans. These took the form of colour woodblock prints, illustrated books and albums.

This album, designed by Masanobu, was published by the ambitious and energetic publisher Tsutaya Jūsaburō. It was an attempt to surpass all competitors. The large format is twice the size of normal single-sheet prints, and the colour-printing is of outstanding complexity and richness. Each print also includes waka poems, reproducing the actual handwriting of the women depicted.

In this print, Hinazuru is shown modelling one of her fine New Year kimonos. Chōzan is seated at an elegant Chinese-style writing-table, checking her calligraphy primer and a copy of the classic Eiga monogatari ('Tales of Glory') before writing her New Year verses of greeting on the poem slips before her.

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More information


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

J. Hillier, The art of the Japanese book, (London, Philip Wilson Publishers, 1987)

L. Smith (ed.), Ukiyo-e images of unknown Japa (London, The British Museum Press, 1988/89)

Jack Hillier and Lawrence Smith, Japanese prints: 300 years of (London, The British Museum Press, 1980)


Height: 275.000 mm
Width: 380.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA 1979.3-5.0146 (JH 146)


Jack Hillier Collection


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