Three Sisters Play at Origami

Accession Number

Three Sisters Play at Origami

Hasegawa Mitsunobu

Object Creation Date
1730s - early 1740s

Medium & Support
monochrome woodblock print (sumizuri e) on paper, from an illustrated book (ehon

( )

Credit Line
Museum Purchase

Label copy
Single-sheet prints featuring courtesans and kabuki actors first appeared and flourished in Edo, a brash young city founded as the political center of the Tokugawa warrior government in 1603. In the older urban centers of Kyoto and Osaka, publishers had a highly literate merchant class as their local market, and so they concentrated their efforts on publishing books. Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671–1751?) was one of the most prolific of the Kyoto artists to illustrate books of all sorts, including histories, contemporary humorous fiction, and erotica; but it was for his illustrations for women’s books that he became best known. Sukenobu focused in on intimate scenes of daily life of the Kyoto bourgeoisie.
In this print—formerly attributed to Sukenobu, but possibly by his close follower Hasegawa Mitsunobu—we see three daughters of a prosperous merchant household at play. The eldest daughter, who already wears the family crest on the sleeves of her kimono, dangles a paper crane in her hand. The middle daughter, with a hairpin in hand, seems intent on instructing her little sister on the finer points of paper folding. Their languid, graceful poses and sense of gentle refinement are worlds apart from the Okumura Masanobu’s tongue-in-cheek send-up of The Tale of Genji (1948/1.198).
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
black and white print

Collection Area

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3 Related Resources

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& Author Notes

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