Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Courtesans in an Iris Garden

Artist:
Katsukawa Shunchō (Japanese, active ca. 1783–95)
Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
late 18th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Triptych of polychrome woodblock prints; ink and color on paper
Dimensions:
Image (each): 15 × 10 in. (38.1 × 25.4 cm)
Classification:
Prints
Credit Line:
The Howard Mansfield Collection, Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1936
Accession Number:
JP2663
Not on view
This triptych recalls one of the most popular episodes from the tenth-century literary classic, the Ise monogatari (The Tales of Ise), a series of poems on love and journeying accompanied by brief textual notes. This episode tells of a young aristocrat who happens upon a place called Eight Bridges, where a river branches into eight channels, each spanned by a bridge. Admiring the lush growth of irises, he composes a poem of five lines, each beginning with one syllable of the Japanese word for iris, which immortalized the flower's association with the place. The poem expresses his longing for a loved one left behind in the capital:

I have a beloved wife,
Familiar as the skirt
Of a well-worn robe,
And so this distant journeying
Fills my heart with grief.
Signature: Yushido Shuncho ga; Seal: Churin

Inscription: Right sheet:
Daimonjiya uchi Mayuzaumi
Names of Kamurō:
Shigeki
Naname

Center sheet:
Tamaya uchi Shizuka
Names of Kamurō:
Hanano
Tomeki

Left sheet:
Ōgiya uchi Yūbae
Names of Kamurō:
Wakaba
Kaide
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