This bust portrait most likely portrays a high-ranking courtesan from Shimabara, the main brothel district in Kyoto. Displaying the refined fashion sense characteristic of the world of pleasure in Edo-period Japan, she is portrayed wearing a blue outer robe; beneath the robe is a white kimono and an undergarment decorated with a complex arabesque of chrysanthemums. Her elaborate hairdo is enhanced with hairpins and combs that are made of tortoiseshell.
Seitoku was one of the best-known ukiyo-e painters in Kyoto during the early decades of the nineteenth century.
Seitoku has added his customary signature to this work, “Heian Seitoku,” Seitoku of Heian, the early name of Kyoto. His family name, Gion, is taken from the other pleasure quarters in the city where he is traditionally said to have lived.
Samuel Morse, Howard M. and Martha P. Mitchell Professor of the History of Art and Asian Languages and Civilizations, Amherst College
portraits; women; figures; text; headdresses
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