- Museum number
- Object: Kishi enpu 葵氏艶譜 (Mr Aoi's Chronicle of Charm)
Illustrated book, print. Vol. 1 of three volumes. Kyoka anthology on life of Shinmachi pleasure quarters in Osaka. Colour woodblock-printed. Sealed. Excellent, early impression in excellent condition.
- Production date
- 1803 (6th month)
Height: 25.70 centimetres
Width: 18.20 centimetres
- Curator's comments
This is the opening illustration for a three-volume series published in Osaka by Ueda Uhei and Nurakami Sakichi. The books show the annual customs and daily life of the pleasure quarters in a series of double-page spreads. This spread shows a parade of courtesans of the Shimmachi pleasure quarter in Osaka at New Year. They are on their way to the local temple of the deity Aizen Myô-Ô. It was customary at New Year for courtesans to dress in the fine new kimonos given to them by their clients. The number of new kimonos they wore corresponded to the number of clients they had, so it was a time to display their popularity.
The spread is particularly striking, with the design crossing the page in a strong diagonal from right to left. The courtesans themselves are distinguished from their attendants by the obi sashes tied in the front, their elaborate hair-styles with combs and long hairpins and their impossibly high wooden geta (clogs). The umbrellas all bear a mallet-shaped mon (crest) of one of the houses of pleasure. From around 1805, two years after this work was published, Saitô Shûho (1769-1859) became an unadventurous painter in the academic style of the Kanô school.
Smith et al 1990
According to Yamanouchi Chozo's commentary on 'Kishi Empu', it was the custom at New Year in Osaka for courtesans of the Shimmachi pleasure quarter to dress in the fine new kimonos given them by their patrons to pay a first visit to the local temple of the deity Aizen Myo-O. The more new kimonos a woman wore during the three days of the New Year holiday, the greater the number of her clients.
This is the auspicious opening illustration to a three-volume work showing the annual customs and human foibles of those working in and around the Osaka entertainment districts. The startling composition, diagonally constructed and punctuated by umbrellas sporting the mallet emblem of one of the houses of pleasure, is typical of the bold design sense of artists in western Japan trained in the Shijo style.
In 1982 'Kishi Empu' was proven to be the work of Saito Shuho, who after 1805 is known to have painted unadventurous works in the academic Kano style.
Yamanouchi, Chozo (ed.), 'Kishi Empu', Tokyo, 1985.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Japanese Illustrated Book number: JIB.515A