The Cloth-Fulling Jewel River, a Famous Place in Settsu Province (Tōi no Tamagawa, Settsu no meisho), from an untitled series of Six Jewel Rivers (Mu Tamagawa)
Suzuki Harunobu Japanese
Not on view
One of a series of scenes from Mutamagawa (Six Jewel Rivers), this print illustrates two women, probably a mother and daughter, beating cloth under a candle hung on the pillar in an earthen-floored room. The fulling of cloth signifies a quiet autumn evening. Seen through a bamboo window is a tree with persimmons, another autumnal motif. A single towel hung over a rod deepens the homely but lonely atmosphere.
Two small prints on the wall illustrate fireworks near a bridge over the Sumida River in Edo in summer and the viewing of the moon in autumn. They are depicted as benizuri-e, examples of an old printmaking method that used only two colors. The appearance of these benizuri-e within a polychrome color print, demonstrating the new "brocade" technique invented by Harunobu, allowed the viewer to savor the contrast.
The subject of Mutamagawa, developed from the classical theme of beautiful rivers employed to represent famous scenic places in waka poems, was eventually standardized, probably in the Edo period, to form a group of six Jewel Rivers. As described in the poem, this scene depicts the Jewel River flowing through a renowned picturesque location in Settsu, modern Osaka:
Fulling of Cloth at Tamagawa by Lady Sagami
The autumn wind over the pines sounds forlorn.
In the loneliness, the sound of fulling cloth at Tamagawa.
(trans. by Miyeko Murase)
The poem was actually composed by Minamoto Toshiyori (ca. 1055-1129), not by Lady Sagami, as stated in the inscription.