琴棋書画図 The Four Elegant Accomplishments (Kin ki sho ga)
Kitagawa Utamaro (Japanese, 1753?–1806)
Edo period (1615–1868)
Triptych of polychrome woodblock prints; ink and color on paper
15 x 30 in. (38.1 x 76.2 cm)
Gift of Estate of Samuel Isham, 1914
Not on view
The Four Elegant Accomplishments were the highly esteemed cultural activities of Chinese literati. Here, Utamaro parodies the venerable tradition by setting a contemporary version in an Edo pleasure house. Instead of learned gentlemen, renowned courtesans practice calligraphy, play the Chinese board game go, perform on the lute, and paint pictures. Although the Four Accomplishments were traditionally depicted with equal emphasis, the perspectival arrangement of this print clearly favors painting over the other activities, which recede into the background.