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Women Playing a Poetry-matching Card Game

Teisai Hokuba Japanese

Not on view

Fully dressed in layers of robes that spill out behind her, hair carefully coiffed and held in place with tortoiseshell combs and battens, a courtesan of the highest rank (oiran) is passing the time with her full retinue, enjoying a card game known as “One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets” (Hyakunin isshu). The highest-ranking courtesans, who studied waka poetry and were educated in many of the traditional arts, were able to support a substantial retinue, seen here grouped in a circle around their mistress. The two girls in red are her young attendants (kamuro), who may someday become courtesans-in-training (shinzō) like the figure sitting at the left of the oiran, wearing a multi-patterned robe with dangling sleeves (furisode). The two women in brown robes with matching obi tied behind them are low-ranking courtesans (tomesode shinzō), while the woman behind them might be a servant to the oiran.

Women Playing a Poetry-matching Card Game, Teisai Hokuba (Japanese, 1771–1844), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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