Kunisada I: The Courtesan Shiratama on Procession Vertical Diptych (SOLD)

  • Sold.

Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)
Title: The House Yatama in Shin-Yoshiwara Edo 1-Chome: Shiratama
Date: Ca. 1840
Signature: Kochoro Kunisada ga


The elaborately dressed courtesan Shira-tama smiles shyly as she holds the edge of her obi. She is probably part of a formal procession of courtesans (Oiran Dochu). Her outer kimono features a rooster who is perched atop a wicker birdcage next blossoming plum branches. She wears at least five layers of robes, and her towering geta sandals with three supports identify her as a high-ranking courtesan. She is dressed to the absolute nines, and must be on procession. Her hairpins look both heavy and expensive.     

Kunisada created other portraits of Shiratama, including in the series Five Annual Festivals: New Years (Gosekku no uchi gantan) in which he depicts Shiratama with kamuros Yachiyo and Tsumugi (van Gogh Museum). In that print he says “House Tama-ya 玉屋“ but in our print ”House Ya-tama 弥玉“.We can  assume that Kunisada took the kanji “Ya“ from the first phonetic sound of Yamasaburó山三郎, but other kanji “Ya“ meaning  “the very...“ famous owner of flourishing Tama-ya, instead of “mountain“.

Tamaya Yamasaburo (or Sansaburo) came from the famous dealer family of fireworks and was very influential.  Yamasaburo himself was the head of the whole Shin-Yoshiwara. His family was one of the first publisher other than Tsutaya Jusaburo to publish the map of Yoshiwara, which was until then was a monopoly held by Tsutaya Jusaburo. (With thanks to Michiko Sato-Grube for her translation and research.)

Size: Kakemono-e (72.7 x 25 cm)
Condition: Excellent impression. Good/very good color and condition. Unbacked, but two sheets are attached at middle with 5mm overlap.
Publisher: Maru-ya Seiji