Kawanabe Kyosai (Japanese, 1831-1889)
hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, Image - h:144.20 w:67.60 cm (h:56 3/4 w:26 9/16 inches)
Overall - h:233.70 w:92.10 cm (h:92 w:36 1/4 inches). The Kelvin Smith Collection, given by Mrs. Kelvin Smith 1985.268
Beautiful women elegantly clad in rich, multi-layered kimono were the most popular subjects of traditional Japanese artists and printmakers of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. This courtesan, identified by the obi tied in front, is posed in a traditional manner: She moves forward, turning her head
to look over her shoulder. Her bare foot is an erotic gesture. Kyosai favored this theme, painting it many times during his career. Here, he masterfully contrasted the monochromatic ink style of landscape painting in the folding screen with the courtesan’s elaborately decorated outer robe, in which he
skillfully hid the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. Amidst a riot of flowers, jewels, lucky coral, and symbols of long life, the gods can be identified by their attributes: Ebisu wears a folded pointed cap and carries a fish. Daikoku has a round face and wears a cloth cap. Bishamonten has a mustache, a beard, and a spear. Hotei poses as the Buddhist deity Jizo, protecting Chinese children from a nearby demon. Not readily seen is the beautiful goddess Benzaiten; perhaps Kyosai intended to have the courtesan represent this role. Other images of the Seven Lucky Gods appear throughout the exhibition.