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Fumi no kiyogaki 文の清書き (Clean Draft of a Love Letter, or Pure Drawings of Female Beauty)

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    OA+,0.99

  • Title (series)

    • Fumi no kiyogaki 文の清書き (Clean Draft of a Love Letter, or Pure Drawings of Female Beauty)
  • Description

    Colour woodblock print, shunga (fragment). No. 1. Courtesan with a Dutchman (fragment).

  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1801
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 24.8 centimetres
    • Length: 19 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    This page is from a folding album of thirteen images (unusual, as one dozen is the norm) attributed to Cho-kyo- sai Eiri, a little-known pupil of Hosoda Eishi (1756–1829). Eishi was a military-class (samurai) artist who began his painting career in the government-sponsored Kano school, but left in about 1785 to work in the popular ‘floating-world’, or ukiyo-e, style (Shunga, cat. nos. 56, 57, 87, 117). Thereafter, Eishi was rival for paramount fame with Utamaro, though Eishi had the greater number of pupils. Interestingly, in 1800, just months before the image shown here was published, a painting by Eishi was shown to retired monarch Go-Sakuramachi (1740–1813; r. 1762–70), allowing his use of the coveted title ‘viewed by Heaven’ (tenran). This startling collision of worlds, decent and indecent, illustrates just how interwoven the cultural circles were that today would be radically separated. Having said this, Go-Sakuramachi would probably have known nothing of the shunga production within Eishi’s circle, not least as she was an elderly lady (one of just two reigning females of the period).
    The scene shows a well-dressed European, surely intended to be a senior Dutch trader, with a Japanese women, who would be a Nagasaki courtesan. They are both heavily dressed for winter, but she leans out of an open Western-style window, suggesting that they are in the East India Company compound on the island of Dejima (which, of course, Eiri would never have seen). It is elegantly fragranced with burning incense. The European speaks gibberish, while the woman protests, ‘I can’t make out what you’re on about. Push it in tighter! What am I to do?!’ Eishi’s pupils did not have discernibly independent styles, and their work is often confused. This set has in the past sometimes been attributed to Eiri’s fellow student Cho-ko-sai Eisho- (c. 1790–9). As a comparison with the plate of foreigners from Utamaro’s series Utamakura confirms (Shunga, cat. 118), Eiri plagiarized a number of the compositions, or parts of compositions, from the earlier work. [TS]

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  • Location

    Not on display

  • Subjects

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition date

    1974

  • Department

    Asia

  • Registration number

    OA+,0.99

Shunga. No. 1. Courtesan with a Dutchman (fragment). Woodblock-printed

Recto

Shunga. No. 1. Courtesan with a Dutchman (fragment). Woodblock-printed

Image description

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Object reference number: JCF8665

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