- Museum number
Painting, handscroll. Scenes in theatre teahouse: In parlour room on right wealthy customer having shoulders rubbed by blind masseur and being entertained with sake and music by two young actors; in bed chamber to left young trainee female role specialist (onnagata) relaxing with client beneath mosquito net; at far left, samurai arriving at entrance gate to establishment with servants bearing expensive gifts. Ink and colour on silk. Signed, dated and sealed.
- Production date
Height: 31.50 centimetres
Width: 147 centimetres
- Curator's comments
This fragment from what was originally a longer handscroll shows scenes in and around a ‘theatre teahouse’ (shibai-jaya), an all-male environment where patrons are partying and having sex with young kabuki actors and trainee actors (iroko). Interiors of this luxuriously appointed establishment are revealed as if the exterior walls have been removed.
The scroll is read from the right, and the young actor walking into the scene (not shown) is probably coming directly from the dressing rooms of the theatre that would have been included in the original scroll. The main building here is divided between a party room on the right, where several patrons are being massaged, feted and generally schmoozed with, and a bedroom on the left, where a client and a young actor are already exchanging intimate cups of sake surrounded by bed quilts, under a large mosquito net. What is now the left end of the scroll shows the main entrance to the teahouse, where a distinguished samurai (with twin swords) is being escorted in by two actors, while servants unload lavish gifts of bolts of rich fabric and luxurious robes. In the street another group of actors exchanges greetings with their admirers (not shown).
Hishikawa Moronobu was the artist who did more than any other to define the style of the new ‘floating-world pictures’, or ukiyo-e. For Moronobu, Yoshiwara pleasure quarter and the kabuki theatres of Sakai-cho- and Fukiyacho- in downtown Nihonbashi district were the twin ‘bad places’ (akusho) that symbolized the prosperity of the burgeoning metropolis of Edo (see Clark et al 2013, pp. 410–17). His detailed and enthusiastic depictions of these special worlds included many erotic works in book and print format, and probably paintings as well (although no securely attributable explicitly erotic paintings are currently known). For the wealthy male pleasure-seeker in Edo in the late seventeenth century, sporting with handsome young (male) kabuki actors and would-be actors had as much social cachet as pursuing sex with (female) Yoshiwara courtesans. Moronobu leaves us wonderfully detailed painted and printed records of both. [TC]
The theatre teahouses ('shibai-jaya') were often luxurious establishments located near the Kabuki theatres in Sakai-cho and Fukiya-cho where actors could meet their patrons, and young trainee female impersonators ('onnagata') provided services of homosexual prostitution. This handscroll, which may have been cut from the end of a longer work including onstage scenes as well, depicts the pleasures to be had there, just as other handscrolls by Moronobu treat the boudoirs of the grand courtesans of the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter. In a parlour room on the right a wealthy customer is having his shoulder rubbed by a blind masseur and is entertained with sake and music by two young actors (identified by the purple kerchief, 'murasaki-boshi', they were required to wear by law); while in the bed chamber to the left an 'onnagata' relaxes with his client beneath a mosquito net. The scroll concludes with a view of the entrance gate to the establishment, where a distinguished-looking samurai is arriving with servants bearing expensive gifts for the actor who has caught his fancy.
A set of seven similar fragments by Moronobu and his atelier, dated between 1672 and 1689, showing scenes in the pleasure quarters and Kabuki theatres is in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum ('NU', vol. 2 (1982), nos 5-8, BW no. 66). The authenticity of the signatures and seals on these as well as their attribution to Moronobu and/or his pupils are much debated, but certainly they form the basis for a consideration of the development of the Hishikawa style.
Anderson, William, 'Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese Paintings in the British Museum'. London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1886, no. 1710.
Narazaki Muneshige 楢崎宗重. "Hishikawa Moronobu hitsu hokuro oyobi engeki zukan ni tsuite" 『菱川師宣筆北楼及び演劇図巻について』, 'Kokka' 「国華」, 980 (June 1975), pp. 9-12.
'(Hizo) Ukiyo-e taikan' ('Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections'), ed. Narazaki Muneshige. Vol. 1, Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987, no. 38.
Smith, Lawrence, 'Japanese Art: Masterpieces in the British Museum', with Victor Harris and Timothy Clark. London, British Museum Publications, 1990, no. 191.
Tokyo-to Bijutsukan (eds), 'Daiei Hakubutsukan hizo Edo bijutsu ten'. Exh. cat., 9 Aug.-24 Sept. 1990, no. 7.
寛文12年（1672）から元禄2年（1689）までの間に描かれたと思われる、同じような師宣と弟子による7点組の肉筆画があり、東京国立博物館本に遊郭と歌舞伎劇場の場面が見られる（楢崎宗重監修『肉筆浮世絵』第2巻 1982年 集英社 5－8図 白黒66図）。その落款の信憑性は、作者を師宣とするか弟子とするかという帰属の問題とともに議論のあるところだが、菱川様式の発展を考察する上で基本となる資料であることは確かである。
Smith et al 1990
The new Ukiyo-e, or 'pictures of the floating world', of the last quarter of the seventeenth century differed from earlier genre paintings in their increasingly narrow choice of subjects taken from the two main arenas of urban pleasures. These were the great licensed pleasure quarters such as Yoshiwara in Edo, and the Kabuki theatres and associated tea-houses. The present fragment, from what may have been a longer handscroll including on-stage scenes, shows one of the luxurious theatre tea-houses ('shibai-jaya') located near the main theatres, where actors would meet their patrons, and young trainee female impersonators ('onnagata') would provide services of homosexual prostitution. In a parlour room on the right a wealthy customer is having his shoulder rubbed by a blind masseur and is being entertained with sake and music by two young actors; while in the bed chamber to the left an 'onnagata' relaxes with his client beneath the mosquito net. The scroll concludes with a view of the entrance gate to the establishment, where a distinguished-looking samurai is arriving with servants bearing expensive gifts for the actor who has caught his fancy.
A set of seven similar fragments by Moronobu and his atelier, dated between 1672 and 1689, showing scenes in the pleasure quarters and Kabuki theatres is in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum.
Narazaki, Muneshige (ed.), 'Nikuhitsu ukiyo-e 2: Moronobu', Tokyo, 1982.
Narazaki, Muneshige, "Hishikawa Moronobu hitsu hokuro oyobi engeki zukan ni tsuite", 'Kokka' 980 (June), 1975, pp. 9-12.
'1710. A very good example.' (unattributed annotation in the specially interleaved Japanese Study Room copy of Anderson 1886)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2013 3 Oct - 2014 5 Jan, London, BM, Shunga: Sex and pleasure in Japanese art, 1600-1900
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The collection of over 2,000 Japanese and Chinese paintings assembled by Prof. William Anderson during his residency in Japan, 1873-1880, was acquired by the Museum in 1881. The items were not listed in the register, but rather were published separately as the 'Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of a Collection of Japanese and Chinese Paintings in the British Museum' (Longmans & Co, 1886).
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.1375 (Japanese Painting Number)