Chinese Beauty

Yokoi Kinkoku 横井金谷 Japanese

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Yokoi Kinkoku was a Nanga artist famous for his Chinese-style landscapes, but this relatively early work is a rare example in the artist's corpus of a figural subject in a style not generally associated with the Nanga movement. An elegant Chinese lady in a colorful robe with a green scarf over her shoulders, a jeweled ornament in her hair, sits on a bench upon which various accoutrements for refined living—a rolled scroll, an incense burner, a cup, and a handwarmer—have been placed. This image was painted with delicate precision and detail, and in some respects resembles other paintings of Chinese beauties by several of Kinkoku's contemporaries, most notably Maruyama Ōkyo (1733–1795) and his followers such as Genki (1747–1797). Typical of such images are the very slender figure and narrow, sloping shoulders, the coiffed hair, and aristocratic garb. In some instances, these paintings were meant to depict figures from Chinese history or legend, but in the absence of identifying attributes, it is difficult to say whether this fragile-looking lady was intended as an image of a specific beauty from Chinese antiquity or a more generalized image.

Yokoi Kinkoku belonged to the mature phase of the Nanga school movement and was influenced by the work of the great Yosa Buson (1716–1783), although there is no documentary evidence of his having studied directly with him. His paintings are often characterized by rough and dynamic brushwork, almost expressionistic in feeling, so this image presents a striking contrast to his usual style.

Chinese Beauty, Yokoi Kinkoku  横井金谷 (Japanese, 1761–1832), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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