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KATSUSHIKA HOKUSAI (1760-1849)* Two courtesans Edo period, ca. 1805 Signed Gakyojin Hokusai ga, sealed Kimo dasoku Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk 29 x 16in. (75.3 x 41.2cm.)
Mitsukoshi Department Store, Nihombashi, Tokyo, "Hokusai: Nikuhitsuga," 1972.1.4--9

"Nikuhitsu ukiyo-e meihin ten: Azabu bijutsukan shozo/Ukiyo-e Painting Masterpieces in the Collection of the Azabu Museum of Art," shown at the following venues:
Sendai City Museum, Sendai, 1988.6.11--7.17
Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, Osaka, 1988.9.6--10.9
Sogo Museum, Yokohama, 1988.10.20--11.13

Azabu Museum of Arts and Crafts, Tokyo, "Edo no fashon, kaikan kinen ten, Part 1: Nikuhitsu ukiyo-e ni miru onnatachi no yosooi/'Fashion of Edo': Women's dress in Ukiyo-e Paintings," 1989.6.14--7.2

Nagoya City Museum, 1991.10.26--11.24

Lot Essay


Asano Shugo, "Hokusai nikuhitsuga ni okeru Kimo Dasoku in jidai" (The period of the Kimo Dasoku seal in Hokusai's work), in Tokyo kokuritsu hakubutsukan II (Tokyo National Museum II), vol. 2 of Nikuhitsu ukiyo-e taikan, edited by Kobayashi Tadashi (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1995), no. 15, p. 251.

Azabu Museum of Art, and Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, eds., Nikuhitsu ukiyo-e meihin ten: Azabu bijutsukan shozo/Ukiyo-e Painting Masterpieces in the Collection of the Azabu Museum of Art, introduction by Kobayashi Tadashi, exh. cat. (Tokyo: Azabu Museum of Art; Osaka: Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, 1988), pl. 76.

Azabu Museum of Arts and Crafts, and Japan Institute of Arts and Crafts, eds., Edo no fashon, kaikan kinen ten, Part 1: Nikuhitsu ukiyo-e ni miru onnatachi no yosooi/"Fashion of Edo": Women's dress in Ukiyo-e Paintings, exh. cat. (Tokyo: Azabu Museum of Arts and Crafts, 1989), pl. 40 (entry by Okamoto Hiromi).

Hokusai: Nikuhitsuga (Hokusai: Paintings), edited by the Japan Ukiyo-e Society, exh. cat. (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shimbunsha, 1972), pl. 4.

Kobayashi Tadashi, ed., Azabu bijutsu kogeikan (Azabu Museum of Arts and Crafts), vol. 6 of Nikuhitsu ukiyo-e taikan (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1995), pls. 56--1, 56--2.

Matthi Forrer, Hokusai (Verona: Bibliothque de l'Image, 1996), p. 21.

Narazaki Muneshige, "Katsushika Hokusai: Nibijin zu" (Katsushika Hokusai: Painting of two beauties), Kokka 983 (August 1975), no. 1.
_____, Hokusai, vol. 7 of Nikuhitsu ukiyo-e, edited by Narazaki Muneshige (Tokyo: Shueisha, 1982), pl. 69.

Okamoto Hiromi, "Variations on the Theme of 'Two Courtesans': Bijin Paintings by Hokusai and his Pupils," in Hokusai Paintings: Selected Essays, edited by Gian Carlo Calza, with the assistance of John T. Carpenter (Venice: The International Hokusai Research Centre, University of Venice, 1994), pl. 6--2.

Tazawa Hiroyoshi, "Azabu bijutsukan shozo nikuhitsu ukiyo-e meihin ten: Tenrankai annai" (Exhibition of ukiyo-e masterpieces in the Azabu Museum of Art: Exhibition news), Ukiyo-e geijutsu/Ukiyo-e Art 94 (October 1988), cover illustr.

Tokubetsu ten Hokusai: Fukutsu no gajin damashii (Special exhibition of Hokusai: The indomitable painter's spirit), exh. cat. (Nagoya: Nagoya City Museum and Chunichi Shimbunsha, 1991), pl. 198.

This is a deluxe commission created for a wealthy patron, whose payment would have been commensurate with the quality of pigments and the artist's investment of time and painstaking attention to details. The black outer robe of the standing courtesan, highlighted with lacquer to accentuate the folds, is decorated with auspicious crane and pine motifs, the latter rendered in gold pigment. The hair of the seated furisode shinzo (teenage apprentice with long-sleeved robes), which cascades luxuriously over her shoulder, is carefully rendered to achieve the effect of semi-transparency. The courtesan and apprentice are depicted in the so-called Sori style typical of Hokusai during his forties. Elongated bodies, gently curving outlines of gaments, and graceful urizane (melon-seed shaped) faces are hallmarks of this style.

A closely related painting in the MOA Museum of Art is similarly signed and bears the same Kimo dasoku seal--one used by Hokusai during the first decade of the 19th century. Commenting on these two paintings, Okamoto Hiromi (former curator of the Azabu Museum of Arts and Crafts) raises the issue of whether the version shown here might be by a pupil of Hokusai working under his close supervision and bearing the master's genuine signature and seal. Most experts, however, accept this as from the brush of Hokusai.

An inscription on the original box lid indicates that the painting was sold by Yamanaka and Company in December 1934 from the collection of William Sturgis Bigelow (1850-1926) of Boston.



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