Courtesan Reading a Letter

Accession Number

Courtesan Reading a Letter

Ishikawa Toyonobu

Object Creation Date
circa 1744-1746

Medium & Support
long-and-large size hand-colored woodblock print (urushi e) on paper (chôôban)

19 3/4 in. x 8 7/8 in. ( 50.2 cm x 22.5 cm )

Credit Line
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker

Label copy
Technically, this print was made in the same way as the monochrome print by Kaigetsudô Dohan of circa 1714 (1955/1.128); both were printed from a single block, with black ink. The contrast between the two works shows how the printing process, artistic style, and women’s fashion had changed in thirty years. By the 1740s, wood blocks were carved with greater detail and delicacy of line, and we can see the impact of Nishikawa Sukenobu’s style in the way the subject is presented as self-absorbed, in a private moment. Kimono designs have evolved from bold overall motifs to a busy, patchwork-like combination of small patterns. The most striking change, of course, is the addition of color, in hand-applied vegetable pigments of pink and yellow; here the colors are still quite fresh. The tasteful furnishings in the room where the courtesan stands further emphasize an overall effect of sumptuous luxury.
M. Graybill
"Courtesans, Cross-Dressers, and the Girl Next Door Images of the Feminine in Japanese Popular Prints"
3/9 - 9/1/02

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
color print

Collection Area

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ukiyo e

2 Related Resources

Japan Pax Tokugawa 1600-1868
(Part of: Empires and Colonialism)
Literacy, Reading, and Writing
(Part of 10 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

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