Courtesan and Attendant Playing with a Dog

Nishikawa Sukenobu Japanese

Not on view

A gorgeously arrayed young courtesan steps out on a verandah while holding a little dog on a red leash. Her teenage attendant tosses a ball to the cheerful dog tied with red rope collar to which a small brass bell is attached. The scene can be interpreted as a parodic representation of the Princess Sannomiya scene from The Tale of Genji where the princess is standing behind a reed curtain and the leash of a cat gets tangled up with the curtain cord and she is unexpectedly seen by courtiers playing kemari (aristocratic kickball) nearby. That scene from the early eleventh century tale becomes the quintessential scene of voyeurism of beautiful women through the ages. Nishikawa Sukenobu replaces the princess with a courtesan of the Kyoto pleasure quarters, the cat with a dog, and the courtiers playing kemari with a young woman with a thread ball.
This painting was formerly in the William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, and sold at auction in 1932.

Courtesan and Attendant Playing with a Dog, Nishikawa Sukenobu (Japanese, 1671–1750), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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