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  • Courtesan


    Japanese, active 1700-16
    Hanging scroll; ink and opaque color on paper
    Signature: Nippon giga Kaigetsu matsuyo Doshin zu (a pleasure picture in Japanese style by Doshin, a last leaf of Kaigetsu)
    Seal: Ando
    John Chandler Bancroft Collection

    Copyright Notice

    The gorgeously attired and worldly woman of the licensed pleasure quarter is the basic motif of ukiyo-e, a distinct style of painting, book illustration, and prints that arose from and gave visual identity to the new urban culture of the Edo period (1600-1868). Doshin's painting depicts the classic type; identified by neither name nor house, this standing figure of a high-class courtesan represents an ideal of feminine beauty devoid of dramatic or narrative interest. The painter's signature and seal declare his adherence to the style of his contemporary Kaigetsudo Ando, who lived in the Asakusa district of Edo and specialized in paintings with rich color and powerful contour lines. Decorative designs on the outer and under kimono reveal an interest in fashion shared by both the painter and his public. The evening-glory (yugao) pattern shown against a woven fence recalls for readers of Japanese literature the poignant romantic emotions associated with the fourth chapter of the classic novel The Tale of Genji.