Kubo Shumman, A party in 'Shikian' Restaurant at Nakazu, a diptych of woodblock prints

Japan
Edo period, about AD 1786

The fashionable and exclusive Shikian ('Four Seasons') restaurant was situated on the corner of Edo's Nakazu entertainment district, a small area of reclaimed land projecting from the bank of the Sumida River that enjoyed a brief heyday during the 1780s. On summer evenings pleasure boats and barges would assemble for the fireworks, vaudeville theatre shows, restaurants and unlicensed brothels of Nakazu.

This diptych by Kubo Shumman (1757-1820) takes an oblique view across the terrace of the Shikian, showing the boats on the river beneath the skyline of warehouses, a bridge and a fire-tower. At the restaurant, the scene is of relaxed enjoyment. The standing couple hold hands. A seated couple play a hand-game of 'trap the fox' (kitsume ken, a bit like 'paper, scissors, stone'), while another woman serves tea to her colleague. A fourth woman carries in another tray laden with raw fish. Two geisha tune up their shamisen in readiness for a performance. The whole presents a wonderfully vivid tableau framed by paper lanterns and a trellis fence. The colours of the print are still remarkably bright; only the pale blue used for the water has faded.

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More information

Bibliography

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

M. Narasaki (ed.), Hizō Ukiyo-e taikan-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987)

Narazaki Muneshige, and Yamaguchi Keisaburo (eds.), Ukiyo-e shūka, vol. 2 (Tokyo, shu eisha, 1979)

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

Dimensions

Height: 360.000 mm (each)
Width: 250.000 mm (each)

Museum number

Asia JA 1924.3-27.09 (1 and 2)

JCF10392

Gift of R.N. Shaw

Location

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