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Woman on a Balcony, Watching a Young Man Play Kemari: Parody of the Wakana no jô Chapter of The Tale of Genji

Accession Number
1960/1.144

Title
Woman on a Balcony, Watching a Young Man Play Kemari: Parody of the Wakana no jô Chapter of The Tale of Genji

Artist(s)
Torii Kiyonaga

Object Creation Date
mid 1780

Medium & Support
pillar-format full-color woodblock print (nishiki e) on paper, pillar-format (ha

Dimensions
36 in. x 8 in. ( 91.4 cm x 20.3 cm )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
Gallery Rotation Fall 2013
Torii Kiyonaga
Japan, 1752–1815
Woman on a Balcony, Watching a Young Man Play Kemari: Parody of the Wakana No Jô Chapter of The Tale of Genji
Edo period (1615–1868)
Mid-1780s
Pillar-format color woodblock print on paper
Museum purchase, 1960/1.144
In a reversal of the usual male gaze, here a young woman looks on as a young man’s legs are exposed in a lively game of kemari, a traditional Japanese sport similar to soccer and hacky-sack. In this print Kiyonaga gives us an example of the taste for layered meanings (mitate) in Edo period culture. The fence separating the figures could be the boundary of the Yoshiwara pleasure district in Edo (modern-day Tokyo) and the figures late eighteenth-century urban commoners, the female a low-ranking servant and the male a young dandy of the merchant class. But kemari was a game restricted to the imperial court and this incongruity would have immediately signaled to savvy viewers that the scene is a modern re-enactment of a famous episode in The Tale of Genji, in which a princess falls in love with a young courtier while watching him play kemari on the palace grounds.

Subject matter
The man is playing kemari, a traditional Japanese sport. The fence implies a boundary between the man and woman, suggesting that the female is a low ranking commoner and the male is of the higher merchang class. However, kemari is a game of the imperial court. The scene is actually a modern re-enactment of an episode of The Tale of Genji where a princess falls in love with a young courtier as she watches him play kemari.

Physical Description
A color print depicting a woman on a balcony behind a fence looking down at a man on the other side of the fence. The woman is wearing a kimono of dark color with a flower pattern on the bottom. She appears to be hiding a smile behind her sleave. The man is wearing a green yukata with black underneath. He is lifting the bottom of his yukata up, revealing most of his right leg, as he kicks a ball that is depicted at the top level of the fence.

Primary Object Classification
Print

Primary Object Type
color print

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Ukiyo-e
balconies

4 Related Resources

Athletes and Sports
(Part of 10 Learning Collections)
Japan Pax Tokugawa 1600-1868
(Part of: Empires and Colonialism)
Satire
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
The Human Body, a survey
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

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