- Museum number
Painting, hanging scroll. Courtesan wearing kimonos in two layers, with one sleeve of over-kimono shrugged off and hanging down to display pattern of robe underneath; pale blue and white over-kimono, decorated with large blue chrysanthemums; with scarlet under-kimono with design of dwarf bamboo in snow. Ink and colour on paper. Signed and sealed.
[Jap.Ptg.1405, image (a)] -
[Jap.Ptg.1405, image (b)] -
[Jap.Ptg.1405, image (T)] -
[Jap.Ptg.1405, image (Ta)] -
[Jap.Ptg.1405, image (V)] -
- Production date
Height: 75 centimetres
Width: 30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
As so often in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century paintings, the courtesan wears kimonos in two layers, with one sleeve of the over-kimono shrugged off and hanging down to display the pattern of the robe underneath. Here the pale blue and white over-kimono, decorated with large blue chrysanthemums (suggesting autumn) contrasts strikingly with the scarlet under-kimono with a design of dwarf bamboo in the snow (representing winter). The whole composition is enlivened by Chikanobu's habitual use of dancing outlines -particularly on the flouncing 'obi' - which accord well with the brilliant colouring in high-quality pigments. The face has the same sweetly smiling expression as is found in all works by this master.
'Kokka', 42, 1893, colour woodblock facsimile facing p. 114.
Morrison, Arthur. 'The Painters of Japan'. Vol. 2, London, 1911, p. 31.
'(Hizo) Ukiyo-e taikan' ('Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections'), ed. Narazaki Muneshige. Vol. 1, Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987, no. 103.
Smith, Lawrence, 'Japanese Art: Masterpieces in the British Museum', with Victor Harris and Timothy Clark. London, British Museum Publications, 1990, no. 192.
Smith et al 1990
From the so-called 'Kambun beauties' (no. 190) of the 1660s onwards, one of the commonest subjects for Ukiyo-e painters was the single standing figure of a beautiful woman - often a courtesan - set against a plain or very simple background. The long, vertical hanging-scroll format had always been ideally suited to single standing figures; but artists of earlier periods had mostly limited themselves to figures of religious patriarchs, Buddhist deities, or Chinese sages.
Chikanobu was one of a number of painters working contemporary with, and to a certain degree influenced by, the major Kaigetsudo school during the early decades of the eighteenth century. Chikanobu's women have certain immediately recognisable characteristics: hair combed straight back from a sweetly smiling face with a small upturned mouth, and a rhythmical, dancing line describing the outlines of the drapery.
Here the courtesan is shown wearing an over-kimono decorated with bold chrysanthemums, a seasonal flower of autumn, and a sash of brown and blue swirls tied in front in an ostentatious bow. This was the traditional signal of a prostitute. The left sleeve of the over-kimono has been thrown off to display the bright red kimono patterned with snow-covered dwarf bamboo leaves representing winter.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The collection of Japanese and Chinese paintings belonging to Arthur Morrison was purchased by Sir William Gwynne-Evans, who presented it to the British Museum in 1913.
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.1405 (Japanese Painting Number)