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Grand Interior View of a Courtesan House in the Yoshiwara District (Yoshiwara o-magaki no zu, one of pentaptych)

Katsushika Hokusai

Artwork Details

Grand Interior View of a Courtesan House in the Yoshiwara District (Yoshiwara o-magaki no zu, one of pentaptych)
Katsushika Hokusai
woodblock print on paper, ôban tate-e size
14 3/8 in. x 9 9/16 in. ( 36.5 cm x 24.3 cm )
Museum Purchase

On Display

Not currently on display


Gallery Rotation Fall 2013
Katsushika Hokusai
Japan, 1760–1849
Grand Interior View of a
Courtesan House in the
Yoshiwara District
Edo period (1615–1868)
circa 1811–13
Color woodblock print on paper
Museum purchase, 1938.1–3
These three prints belong to a series of five showing the interior of a bustling brothel in Yoshiwara, the licensed red-light district in Edo (modern day Tokyo). The space is filled with ostentatiously dressed courtesans, with a plethora of hair accessories, gorgeous robes, and obi (sash). In between the courtesans and their young attendants (kamuro), male and female servants are busy with their chores, as if the brothel were soon to open to customers. Interior elements such as sliding doors with intricate wood panels, impeccably clean tatami mats, and the luxurious painting of a phoenix in the back suggest that this brothel caters to sophisticated and wealthy clients.
These prints were produced in the early years of Hokusai’s long career. Although his brilliant design sense is not so much in evidence here, his meticulous attention to details is apparent: male servants blow air into the stove’s furnace while courtesans touch-up their make-up and female servants wipe dust off the footed trays.

Subject Matter:

A print of a group of courtesans at a brothel in the Yoshiwara district. One male servant is seen in the back kneeling over something while another man, possibly another servant, can be seen exiting the room to the back. The movement of the servants and the image of the two courtesans adjusting their makeup implies that the house is preparing to open for business. The intricate design of the building's interior and the clean floors imply that this house catered to wealthy clients. This print is from a series of five.

Physical Description:

A print of 15 women inside a building dressed in various kimono with the predominant colors being grey, red, black, and green. Some of the kimono also have orange coloring. The patterns and designs on the kimono vary from images of flowers to geometric designs. One male is kneeling towards the back and another man can be seen in the background leaving the room. Two women to the very back and left of the image appear to be adjusting their makeup. Three women to the front sit around a tea set (partially visable) and two women to their right are whispering to each other.

Usage Rights:

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