Courtesan Writing a Letter

Kaigetsudō Doshin Japanese

Not on view

Departing from the standard Kaigetsudō-atelier compositional formula of depicting courtesans standing and otherwise unoccupied, here Doshin depicts his subject seated and writing a letter, no doubt to a special client. Courtesans reading or writing letters became a popular subject for ukiyo-e painters of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, and its origins may be traced to more complex genre screens and handscrolls depicting male and female figures within the pleasure district of Kyoto or Edo. The brilliantly colored floral pattern of the woman’s clothes effectively sets off the chalk-white expanses of the letter paper, her delicate hands, and her plump face. The garments are outlined in heavy strokes of dark ink, a feature common to compositions produced in the Kaigetsudō studio.

As did all other successors of Kaigetsudō Ando, Doshin signed his name on this work as “Matsuyō” (meaning “last leaf”) of Kaigetsudō. The seal appears to read “Ando,” and indeed many Kaigetsudō artists continued to use the seal of the studio’s founder.

Courtesan Writing a Letter, Kaigetsudō Doshin (Japanese, active 1711–1736), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, Japan

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.