Okumura Masanobu, Two geisha and a boy carrying a shamisen case, a woodblock print

Japan
Edo period, AD 1756

Two geisha are on their way to perform at a New Year party. A young servant boy carries the shamisen case. One of the geisha is reading with great interest a playbill for the 1775-6 season at the Nakamura Theatre. The comic senryū poem suggests that they would much prefer to be going to the theatre than working:

Hikizome ya
Omou shibai e
Shinobi-goma

(First tune of the year; / Stealing off to the theatre we adore; / Mute on the shamisen!)

Early colour prints of the 1740s and 1750s used very few colours. This one has only red and green, with white and the usual black outlines. However, the striking kimono designs - waves and plum blossom on the right and seasonal flower motifs scattered across a black and white chequered background on the left - produce a gloriously rich effect.

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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)

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

Dimensions

Height: 423.000 mm
Width: 302.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA 1910.6-14.01

JCF4777

Location

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