The courtesan Takao. Kakemono by Miyagawa Chōshun



Courtesan, oiran, Takao, Kakemono, Miyagawa, Chōshun, painter, ukiyo-e, Japan,
The courtesan Takao. Kakemono by Miyagawa Chōshun

The courtesan Takao

by George Ashdown Audsley.

THE Painting which is given in this Plate is a reduced copy from a fine kakemono by Miyagawa Chōshun, *) a distinguished and much admired artist of the old popular school of Matahei, who lived at Tokio at the commencement of the eighteenth century.

The original is executed, on paper of a cold buff tint, almost entirely in body colours, very evenly applied. The colouring generally is rich and refined, combining force and harmonious repose with singular skill. The figure is thoroughly well drawn, from a Japanese art standpoint; and is expressive of gentleness and meditation which accords well with an attitude so full of elegance and tranquillity.

The figure represents the celebrated Takao **), who, owing to her unfortunate childhood, became a courtesan of Yoshiwara; but who, from her innate refinement of manner and conversation, was compared to the flower of the nymphaea which smiles in the mud with all its natural freshness and purity.

This Painting is thoroughly representative of Choshun’s style. Although the subjects of the old popular school may be said to have displayed a lack of refinement and distinction, those from the brush of Choshun go far to redeem the school from reproach; indeed, many of his subjects express very elevated sentiments. The kakemono under review bears the full signature of the master.

The portion represented in the Plate measures in the original 25 inches in height by 17 inches in width including the silk margins.

*) Miyagawa Chōshun was a painter of ukiyo-e style prints. He was born in 1683 in Miyagawa-mura, a village in Aichi prefecture, Owari province, but later lived most of his life in Edo (Tokio), where he died on 13 November 1753. His paintings feature almost exclusively courtesans, who appear more voluptuous than those of most other artists, especially a later artist such as Harunobu. In addition to these portraits of courtesans, Miyagawa Chōshun and his pupils also produced many erotic works of the shunga type.

**) Takao II (1640 – 1659), also known as Sendai Takao or Manji Takao, was a taiyu (courtesan or oiran) of Yoshiwara, one of the most famous of Japan’s Edo period. She made her debut in 1655 as the leading courtesan of the Great Miura, the most prestigious brothel in Yoshiwara at the time, and quickly became the leading courtesan of all of Yoshiwara. Takao II was among the 6-11 courtesans who bore the myoseki (inherited name) Takao. She was best known for her affair with the daimyo Date Tsunamune. Some time after her death, the story was told in kabuki (in a play called Meiboku Sendai Hagi), in song and in literature, with considerable distortion.

Source: The ornamental arts of Japan by George Ashdown Audsley. Lithographer: W. Greve, Berlin. Published: Lemercier & cie., Paris 1882.

red, sun, Japan, Mon, Nisshōki, Hinomaru

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