Courtesan returning to her lover
Koryûsai, Isoda; designer; Japanese artist, fl.c.1766-88
Colour print from woodblocks. Hashira-e, 686 x 117. Signed: Koryûsai ga. c.1771.
given; 1913; Riches, Thomas Henry
A courtesan returns to her lover who waits for her behind the folding screen, smoking his pipe. Her white nightgown parts to show her breast and ankle, while still clinging to her form to emphasise the curve of her buttock and the line of her thigh. The proximity of the lovers’ meeting is subtly suggested by the juxtaposition of their hands — her fingers curl round the edge of the screen and almost seem to touch his hand that holds the pipe. The way the screen divides the already narrow format, and the picture plane, into still narrower vertical strips, enables Koryûsai to demonstrate his consummate mastery of the hashira-e. The provocative glimpse of the woman’s body is typical of prints known as abuna-e (risqué picture), which became popular after explicit erotic prints were made illegal in 1722. The expression abuna-e was used as early as 1687 in an ukiyo-zôshi entitled Kôshoku kimmô zui (Amorous educational pictures), to define the quality of tantalising pictures that show only a glimpse rather than revealing all.
Object Number: P.3639-R
(Paintings, Drawings and Prints)
(record id: 182545; input: 2011-03-29; modified: 2012-05-17)