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Relief Prints

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A Brocade Picture of the Elegant Arts

Edo Period (1600-1868)
14 3/8 x 8 15/16 in. (36.5 x 22.7 cm)

Kitagawa Utamaro
Japanese (1753 - 1806) Designer

Object Type: Print
Medium and Support: Color woodcut
Credit Line: Transfer from the Art Department of the University of Rochester
Accession Number: 1997.103
Link to this object
Location: Not currently on view
Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudo)

These three courtesans are engaged in reading and writing poetry, one of the four "elegant arts." (The other three were painting, music and chess). Women of the entertainment quarter were often famous for their accomplishments in the arts of poetry and calligraphy as well as the usual professional attainments of song and dance. The physical appearance of these women makes clear the strict hierarchy of courtesans within the entertainment quarter: the tallest woman is the tayû, or ranking beauty; the other two, called shinzô, are her juniors. Note the subtle dark-black pattern barely visible on the tayû's deep purple robe.

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