Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Female Chanter for Jōruri Puppet Theater

Arai Kōu (Japanese, active early 20th century)
Taishō period (1912–26)
ca. 1920
Hanging scroll; colors, gofun, ink, and gold on silk
Image: 75 1/2 × 42 1/2 in. (191.8 × 108 cm) Overall with mounting: 116 1/4 × 51 5/8 in. (295.3 × 131.1 cm) Overall with knobs: 116 1/4 × 55 5/8 in. (295.3 × 141.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2013
Accession Number:
Not on view
A female chanter for a Jōruri puppet theater is captured in a quiet moment, enjoying a cup of tea in her dressing room, while she prepares for an upcoming performance. Though this painter’s biography remains obscure, the portrait is imbued with a solemnity and psychological subtlety often found in early twentieth-century Nihonga paintings of female subjects.

In front of the chanter is a woodblock-printed book with the libretto for a puppet play, the text inscribed in the distinctive dense, bold script associated with Jōruri manuscripts. The text has been so punctiliously rendered, including annotations in red ink, that we can identify the exact passage from the play she is practicing: the revenge story Mirror Mountain: Brocade Pictures of Our Hometown (Kagamiyama kokyō no nishiki-e). The sheet of paper pinned to the wall is a sponsorship announcement (iwai-bira), rendered in loose, expressive calligraphy, which acknowledges that the puppeteer’s patron has presented a gift of a curtain for the puppet stage. Leaning against the wall is a shamisen, the three-stringed instrument played during the performance to accompany the chanting. The puppets hanging on the wall are not the large handheld puppets usually used for Jōruri but rather smaller marionettes, which the puppeteer operates by strings attached to a wooden board.
Signature: Kōu 晃雨

Marking: Seal: Takako 多加子
Related Objects

Portrait of a scholar

Artist: Chae Yongsin (artist name: Seokji) (ASA) (Korean, 1850–1941) Date: dated by inscription to 1924 Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk Accession: 2012.329 On view in:Gallery 233

Emperor Xuanzong's Flight to Shu

Date: mid-12th century Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk Accession: 41.138 On view in:Gallery 210

Still life with crabs and fish

Artist: Yi Yong-u (artist name: Mungno) (Korean, 1902–1952) Date: probably 1940s Medium: Pair of hanging scrolls; ink and color on paper Accession: 2005.24a, b On view in:Gallery 233

Aizen Myōō

Date: 14th century Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, gold, and cut gold leaf on silk Accession: 66.90 On view in:Not on view

Woman in a Black Kimono

Artist: Katsukawa Shunshō (Japanese, 1726–1792) Date: 1783–89 Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk Accession: 2015.300.139 On view in:Not on view