Five Beauties

Teisai Hokuba Japanese

Not on view

The two women on the left play a hand-gesture game called kitsune-ken (fox fists) in which gestures representing a supernatural fox (kitsune) defeat those of a village head (shōya), who defeats a hunter (ryōshi), who in turn defeats the fox. An apprentice courtesan serves tea while a high-ranking courtesan makes a grand entrance. A feast of sashimi and other delicacies sits nearby.

Teisai Hokuba, one of the earliest and most talented pupils of Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), focused his efforts on surimono (privately commissioned woodblock prints), book illustration, and deluxe paintings of beauties like this one. His signature indicates that he was seventy years old when he painted it, near the end of his long career.

Five Beauties, Teisai Hokuba (Japanese, 1771–1844), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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