The cat’s wry grin and the pile of dirty dishes suggest perhaps the aftermath of a party in the Yoshiwara, Edo’s pleasure district, evidenced by the green-slatted window through which courtesans would often peer, a hallmark of the pleasure houses. With this lighthearted composition, Zeshin references the privileges and vices of the wealthy merchant class, who patronized such areas during the Edo period, especially in the nineteenth century. Here, Zeshin employs mica dust on the basin to impart volume to the vessel, a possible nod to his noted skill as a maker and designer of lacquerware.
- BB, ed., 2015
In this work, Shibata Zeshin combines many of his signature elements: the cat, with its wry smile, shows his skill in rendering animals, one of his trademarks. In addition, the mica dust added to the iron vessel references his work as a well-known lacquerware artist and his unrivaled ability to make urushi-e, or 'lacquer prints.'
This print bears his signature at lower-right, which reads 'Zeshin.' The style of the signature indicates that this print was executed after 1832 but before 1840. (See Reisai, Shibata, 'Senkō Shibata Zeshin,' Shoga Kottō Zasshi, August, 1912; and Link, Howard A. et al, 'The Art of Shibata Zeshin: The Mr. and Mrs. James E. O'Brien Collection at the Honolulu Academy of Arts,' exh. cat., Robert G. Sawers Publishing(1979): Appendix I, 184.) The artist's seal, applied in red directly beneath the signature, reads 'Tairyūkyo,' a reference to his home by the Kanda River, where he moved in 1832, supporting the attribution to the 1830s. (Ibid., Appendix II, 187)
The Mead holds two impressions of this print: AC 2005.656 and AC 2005.179.