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Moritoshi, Courtesan in a white kimono, a hanging scroll painting

 

Height: 852.000 mm
Width: 312.000 mm

Ralph Harari Collection

Asia JA JP ADD700 (1982.7-1.015)

    Moritoshi, Courtesan in a white kimono, a hanging scroll painting

    Japan
    Edo period, about AD 1661-73

    A 'Kambun beauty'

    A high-ranked courtesan strolls elegantly through the streets spreading her right sleeve in display. Her white short-sleeved kimono has an all-over tie-dyed pattern. It contrasts strongly with the bright blue obi (sash) with its design of interlocking plant tendrils in gold. Her hair is swept up and looped into the impressive hyōgo-mage style. The face is unusually expressive for this genre.

    Such hanging scroll portraits of beautiful women shown alone against a plain background came to be known as 'Kambun beauties' after the Kambun era (1661-73) in which they became popular. Some have a poem written by the woman herself in elegant calligraphic script in the space at the top. The courtesans depicted were mainly from the Shimabara pleasure quarter of Kyoto before the centre for Ukiyo-e painting shifted to the newly prospering eastern capital of Edo (Tokyo).

    Nothing is known of this artist, Moritoshi. He may originally have trained in the Kanō school which worked mainly for the military class. Painters of genre subjects left the Kanō school, however, to join the growing group of Ukiyo-e painters working principally for the newly affluent merchant classes.

    The signature (in gold) reads 'Moritoshi hitsu' ('the brush of Moritoshi'). The seal reads 'Moritoshi'.

    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)

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