The Four Accomplishments

Artist: Utagawa Toyohiro 歌川豊広 (1773-1828)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 19th century
Color and gold on silk
H x W (image): 101.8 x 41.5 cm (40 1/16 x 16 5/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), go, Japan, kakemono, koto, music, qin, the four accomplishments, ukiyo-e

To 1903
Yamanaka & Company, to 1903 [1]

From 1903 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company in March 1903 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] Undated folder sheet note. Also see Original Kakemono and Makimono List, no. 1, pg. 70, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. The majority of Charles Lang Freer’s purchases from Yamanaka & Company were made at its New York branch. Yamanaka & Company maintained branch offices, at various times, in Boston, Chicago, London, Peking, Shanghai, Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto. During the summer, the company also maintained seasonal locations in Newport, Bar Harbor, and Atlantic City.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Yamanaka and Co. (C.L. Freer source) 1917-1965


The Four Accomplishments-arts to be mastered by an ideal Chinese scholar-were playing the musical instrument qin, the board game weiqi, calligraphy, and painting. This ideal was adopted in Japan and slightly modified to include koto, a type of zither played by plucking (shown at the far right), and the Japanese board game go (replaced here by sugoroku, a game similar to backgammon). Instead of scholarly gentlemen practicing the Four Accomplishments, however, these paintings show Japanese courtesans in the urban "floating world" of pleasure and entertainment. While geisha and high-class courtesans often possessed great artistic skills, their appearance in conjunction with these scholarly Chinese pursuits creates an unexpected joining of disparate themes and social contexts. This form of artistic play on the unexpected, known as mitate, was popular in literature and visual art during the Edo period (1615-1868).

Published References
  • Harold P. Stern. Ukiyo-e Painting: Freer Gallery of Art Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition. Exh. cat. Washington and Baltimore, 1973. cat. 76, pp. 204-207.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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