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Gregg Baker Asian Art

A six-fold paper screen painted in ink and colour with an interior scene
from the Yoshiwara (pleasure quarters of Edo)

Japan
Edo period, 18th century
Dimensions: H. 55¼" x W. 126½" (140cm x 321cm)

This screen gives us a glimpse of daily life in one of the numerous establishments in Shin Yoshiwara (New Yoshiwara) painted in the Uki-e style (literally ‘floating picture’). Details such as tansu (storage chests), lanterns, mirrors, lacquer make-up boxes, books and scrolls can be seen as they would have been used on a daily basis.

The main focus is on three Oiran (high ranking courtesans) gathered around an hibachi (brazier) all are dressed in sumptuous kososde (short sleeved kimono), one is attending to the coals whilst another plays the samisen (Japanese banjo literally translated as ‘Three flavour strings). In the penultimate panel is another Oiran standing beside her identically dressed kamaro (trainee courtesans) who are reading an album. Behind them is a byobu (folding screen) with a design of botan (peony) and a shi shi (lion dog), a kimono is draped over the final panel.

The season is winter, as can be seen through the windows at the rear of the room as prospective clients come and go from the ‘floating world’.

all text & images Gregg Baker Asian Art

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