Seven women walking near a football court

Artist: Katsukawa Shunshō 勝川春章 (1726-1792)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1726-1792
Color and gold on silk panel
H x W (image): 157.8 × 82.7 cm (62 1/8 × 32 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), game playing, Japan, kakemono, ukiyo-e, woman

To 1905
Yamanaka & Company, to 1905 [1]

From 1905 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company in 1905 [2]

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


[1] Undated folder sheet note. See Original Panel List, L. pg. 18, 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


Kemari, a game in which players form a circle and kick a ball back and forth without letting it fall to the ground, was played at the Japanese imperial court as early as the seventh century. Played on a court about six meters (twenty feet) on each side with its corners marked by four trees, the sport was popular among  the aristocracy and later was adopted by warriors and commoners. Kemari competitions continue today.

These women carry shoes and a deerskin ball, equipment associated with the game. Kemari, however, was traditionally played by men. The scene may be an example of mitate, a play on words or images popular during the Edo period (1615-1868), in which an image is presented in an unexpected form or context. A common type of mitate in painting placed contemporary courtesans of the urban "floating world" in scenes from classical Japanese literature, such as The Tale of Genji, which is set in the imperial court. This scene may allude to a famous and frequently illustrated episode in The Tale of Genji, in which a courtier, playing kemari beneath blossoming cherry trees, immediately falls in love after he glimpses a beautiful princess whose cat pushes aside a bamboo blind. The play upon gender and class seen here would have been obvious and amusing to the painting's patron.

Published References
  • Harold P. Stern. Ukiyo-e Painting: Freer Gallery of Art Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition. Exh. cat. Washington and Baltimore, 1973. cat. 65, pp. 176-179.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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