Courtesan and Kamuro

Maker(s): Suzuki Harunobu
Culture: Japanese (1724-1770)
Title: Courtesan and Kamuro
Type: Print
Materials: Woodblock print (woodcut); Nishiki-e, Ink and colors on paper
Place Made: Asia; Japan
Measurements: Mount: 14 1/4 in x 9 3/4 in; 36.2 cm x 24.8 cm; Sheet/Image: 10 1/2 in x 8 in; 26.7 cm x 20.3 cm Narrative Inscription: No inscriptions.
Accession Number: MH 1973.258.Q.RII
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Louis C. Black

A happy, playful atmosphere pervades this lively print by Suzuki Harunobu. The Courtesan, holding a samisen or three-stringed lute, approaches her two Kamuro who appear to be playing with a small toy ball; both actions create a sense of motion within the scene. Kamuro were courtesans in training; they were typically young girls between ages 8 and 11 when they started. They were apprenticed to an established courtesan to learn proper etiquette and to become versed in a variety of feminine arts that would serve them later on when they had to entertain customers. Also, they assisted the courtesan while she was on a job by running errands for her. In the print, the courtesan curiously glances down at their game, seemingly intrigued, while the two girls intently watch the ball drop. Behind them, in the background, a sliding door has been thrown open and reveals a blossoming plum tree whose branches are crafted from thin, sinuous lines. Its appearance marks the imminent coming of Spring as plum blossoms are the first to bloom and are thought to ward of danger.

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