Dec 9, 2014

Courtesan Reading a Letter

Courtesan Reading a Letter


early 1800s


Teisai Hokuba 蹄斎 北馬

(Japanese, 1771-1844)

calligraphy by

Ōta Nanpo 大田 南畝

(Japanese, 1749-1823)

Two-panel folding screen; ink and color on paper

Image: 156.8 x 165.4 cm (61 3/4 x 65 1/8 in.); Overall: 175.2 x 183.5 cm (69 x 72 1/4 in.)

The Kelvin Smith Collection, given by Mrs. Kelvin Smith 1985.261



Teisai Hokuba, a disciple of the famed painter and print designer Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), is best known for his private edition poetry-print designs, or surimono, and hanging scroll paintings. The screen format is unusual for him. On the right panel, he has depicted a courtesan reading a letter, a popular theme in ukiyo-e painting. On the left panel, Ota Nanpo, a writer in Hokuba's circle, brushed a poem that humorously compares the courtesan to the legendary 9th-century poet Ono no Komachi:
Having been asked to stay over,
I stayed on-and for a good reason:
It's way past midnight [closing time in the Yoshiwara]
And the lady is that (legendary implorer) Amagoi Komachi.

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