late 1700s–early 1800s
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
Image: 96 x 37 cm (37 13/16 x 14 9/16 in.); Overall: 184.2 x 53.3 cm (72 1/2 x 21 in.)
Kelvin Smith Fund 1988.1
Ukiyo-e artists’ exploration of beautiful people extended to figures from other lands. Here, an elegant Chinese palace lady holding a fan stands before a banana plant. The poem at the top is written in a Japanese appropriation of Chinese called kanbun. Based on its imagery of a palanquin (an enclosed couch with poles used for carrying passengers), silk fan, and autumn winds, it may allude to the story of Lady Ban (about 48 BC–about AD 2). A Chinese beauty famous for her scholarly achievements, Ban was once consort to an emperor but later lost his favor. In a poem attributed to her, she compared herself to a used silk fan put away in autumn.
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