Important Cultural PropertyPopular Geisha at the Pleasure Quarters

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  • By Chōbunsai Eishi
  • 3 prints
  • Large Nishikie (wood engraving print)
  • Edo period/18th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-10569-349ほか

Chobunsai Eishi (1756 – 1829) was a hatamoto (direct retainer of a shogun) with 500 koku (a unit of volume: 1 koku equals to approximately 180 liters; koku is used here as a unit of the stipends samurai received from a shogun) and a disciple of Kano Eisenin (Michinobu). Having learned the painting style of Torii Kiyonaga, he drew tall beautiful women and established his position as a bijinga (paintings depicting the beauty of women) artist rivaling Utamaro. While most of his works are nikuhitsuga (a painting done with a brush and colored ink on paper, not a woodblock print), he also produced some quality woodblock prints like this one.
From the titles, these prints seem to depict harlots of Yoshiwara. Based on the black mica series of three prints, "Seiro-bisen-awase," published by the same publisher, Iwatoya, it is assumed that these prints used to constitute a series of three white mica prints, where the two pictures, "Itsuhana" and "Ohane & Ofuku," were linked to each other via samisen and the "Itsutomi" was placed next to them (it is not known whether it was placed on the right-hand side or the left-hand side of the other two). Based on the period when geisha women were popular and the printing style, it has been ascertained that this was created during the Kansei era (1789 – 1801). While the slender figures represented rather linearly are slightly rigid and simple in expression with little movement, they clearly demonstrate the characteristics of Eishi, who focused on the combined expression of buxomness and pureness and had some impact on Kitagawa Utamaro, an artist of the same period.