Two Courtesans Talking to a Young Man, Sheet 4 from the series of "The Main Street of the Yoshiwara in Cherry Blossom Time" (a five sheet series)Artist(s)Utagawa Toyokuni IArtist NationalityJapanese (culture or style)Object Creation Datelate 18th century - early 19th centuryMedium & Supportcolor woodblock print on paperDimensions
( )Credit LineBequest of Margaret Watson ParkerLabel copy
Gallery Rotation Fall 2013
Utagawa Toyokuni I
The Main Street of the Yoshiwara in Cherry Blossom Time
Edo period (1615–1868)
Late 18th–early 19th century
Color woodblock print on paper, part of five prints
Bequest of Margaret Watson Parker, 1948/1.176–179
This beautiful panorama of courtesans and their male clients casually strolling under blossoming cherry trees depicts the hierarchical world of the Yoshiwara pleasure district courtesan. The woman near the center of the print has the highest rank. To her immediate left stands her junior apprentice (shinzô) and two child attendants (kamuro). The most simply dressed and coifed member of the group is the maid, who wears a simple black-and-white komon (small-pattern) kimono. The young man about to encounter the highest-ranking courtesan might be a present or future client. On the left, another group of women approaches, led by a slightly lower-ranked courtesan. The older woman (yarite) on the far left is a retired courtesan who trains younger women. A young man on the right is carrying boxes with the name Kazusaya, a popular brothel and possibly the one with which these courtesans are associated. In this sense the print also functions as an advertisement.
This is a relatively early print by Utagawa Toyokuni, from a phase in his career when he copied the style of Torii Kiyonaga (1752–1815), an influential print artist whose works are on view nearby. Indeed, without Toyokuni’s signature, one might easily mistake the proportions of the figures, their graceful interaction, and the convincing evocation of outdoor space as Kiyonaga’s work. However, in the fast-paced commercial world of print publishing in Edo (modern Tokyo), imitation bore no stigma; generation after generation of artists began their careers by working in whatever mode was currently most popular until they were successful enough to establish a distinctive artistic persona.Subject matter
An image of courtesans walking down the street. The woman to the forefront is the highest ranked courtesan, and she is trailed by her two child attendants and another courtesan, likely her junior. The two women talking to the men are likely doing so because the first man is a potential or current client. Due to the demeanor and clothing of the second man, he may be a servant. This image is part of the series "The Main Street of Yoshiwara in Cherry Blossom Time."Physical Description
An image of women walking down the street. The woman at the forefront is trailed by two young girls and another woman. They wear similarly pattererned kimono with geometric designs and orange and green coloration. To the right of them are two women talking to two men, one crouched behind the other, under cherry blossom trees. The women appear to wear kimono of orange color and patterened with leaves. The first man wears a black striped kimono and a sword hilt can be seen strapped to his waist while the man behind him wears grey. In the background is a building and a group of men walking about. In the center of the background, inside the building, a woman can be seen.Primary Object Classification Print Primary Object Typecolor printCollection AreaAsianRights
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