Ghost of a Courtesan in the Reeds

Kawanabe Kyōsai

Kawanabe Kyōsai - Ghost of a Courtesan in the Reeds
Veiled in a misty haze, the ghost of a courtesan rises from a skull hidden in the reeds in a solitary site reminiscent of the marshlands near Edo or of a place scorched by fire. The brightly-coloured figure of a woman, rendered in meticulous brushwork in the ukiyoe style (Pictures of the Floating World) contrasts with the rest of the scene that is rapidly sketched with a damp brush in light ink shades. The sombre scenery is enhanced by the courtesan’s sad expression. Her intricate hairdo and elegant black kimono decorated with a crane-and-pine pattern attests to her high rank in the hierarchy of the pleasure quarters. The painting is signed with the name Shōsai Kyōsai and bears the painter’s seal that reads Kyōsai ga’in. Thematically, this is a variation on the tragic tales of courtesans from an Edo pleasure house, driven to commit suicide by the cruel environment or which played the key role as the motif of murder of an unhappy courtesan.
measurements: height 127 cm
width 51 cm
material: paper
technique: Ink and colour painting
inventory number: Vm 5548
gallery collection: Collection of Asian and African Art
licence: Creative Commons License public domain