Courtesan and Maid

Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I 歌川豊国 (1769-1825)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1769-1825
Color and gold on silk
H x W (image): 96.5 × 40.4 cm (38 × 15 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

boat, courtesan, Edo period (1615 - 1868), geisha, Japan, kakemono, ukiyo-e

To 1903
Yamanaka & Company, New York, NY, 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. See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, pg. 74, L. 310, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[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 image of a courtesan and attendant waiting for a boat at the end of a pier is a popular subject in prints and paintings depiciting the world of Edo period (1615-1868) entertainment. Pleasure boats plied the waterways of Edo (present-day Tokyo) and other cities. The Sumida River, the likely setting for this painting, ran from north to south in eastern Edo and was connected to the heart of the city by numerous canals. In the warm seasons, courtesans joined clients for frolicsome evenings on specially outfitted boats.

Toyokuni is perhaps best known for his kabuki actor prints of the 1790s. Inspired by the success of Toshusai Sharaku (fl.1794-95), who introduced dramatic bust portraits on mica background, Toyokuni created a wildly popular series of actor prints that featured attenuated, elegant figures set against light gray backgrounds. The image seen here gains much of its force through the purposeful contrast achieved in placing the lantern and women's heads against the dark evening sky.

Published References
  • Harold P. Stern, Narasaki Muneshige. Ukiyo-e shuka. vol. 16, Tokyo. vol. 16: pl. 49.
  • Zaigai hiho [(Japanese Paintings in Western Collections]. 3 vols., Tokyo. vol. 3, pt. I, pl. 76.
  • Harold P. Stern. Ukiyo-e Painting: Freer Gallery of Art Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition. Exh. cat. Washington and Baltimore, 1973. cat. 81, pp. 220-223.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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