Shunsen, Courtesan With Battledore and Flight Kakemono-e

Katsukawa Shunsen (1762-1830) Courtesan With Battledore and Flight, 1810's. Vertical Diptych (Kakemono).

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This kakemono by Shunsen is from around 1810. It is in very fine condition for its age, the delicate vegetable colours are especially fresh. The print was presumably mounted on a scroll, as was habitual, but this seems to have avoided the centuries of cigarette smoke and oil lamp soot. The print depicts a courtesan holding a ‘shuttlecock’ in her right hand. The battledore - the bat - is held in the crook of her right arm. The face of it depicts a padded illustration by the artist Masanobu. Her kimono is printed in lush, hand applied bokashi shading of great delicacy. The surface has an elaborate pattern of embossed decoration.

Her very rich kimono is decorated with chrysanthemums. All of the prints in this small selection are of females, courtesans, escorts — there are many words to describe young women of high status who were professional mistresses. The position was dangerous and tenuous, but the social structure of Edo Japan was very different to modern society and for those in the west, of course the particular moral structure of a loosely Christian society was wholly absent. When the American navy imposed trade agreements on the failing Tokugawa regime in the mid 1860’s the pious missionaries and capitalist trades representatives demanded a moral revolution designed to clean up public displays of immorality, mixed bathing, public nudity and of course the vast and, to them, incomprehensible "red light district", the Yoshiwara.

During the early nineteenth century, women such as those pictured in these prints were admired and celebrated in the form known as bijin-ga ("pictures of beautiful women")… the vertical format of two oban prints, pasted together was intended to be scroll mounted and backed and hung in niches or on pillars in the manner of a votive piece.

The print is in excellent condition for its type. Two sheets not attached and unbacked. The previous mounting has been removed. Some frits to the edges The design is deeply embossed with patterned decoration over the whole surface. The delicate vestigial colours have survived well. Condition overall is excellent. Impression also very good, condition is fine for an early example.

76 x 25 cm.