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An image of Portrait of a standing courtesan by Utagawa TOYOHARU


(Japan 1735 – 1814)

Portrait of a standing courtesan
Other titles:
Portrait of a standing courtesan (Tayû)
Place of origin
Edo (Tokugawa) period 1615 - 1868 → Japan
Media category
Materials used
hanging scroll; ink and colour on silk

161.5 x 84.2 cm image; 274.0 x 105.5 x 117.5 cm scroll

Signature & date
Signed l.r., in Japanese, ink [inscribed] "Tôto Utagawa Toyoharu zu-shi [painted by Utagawa Toyoharu of the Eastern Capital (Edo)]" [and two artist's seals]. Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by Kenneth Myer 1990
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Toyoharu was the founder of the Utagawa school, a school of 'ukiyo-e' that was to dominate the late 1700s into the 1800s. As with many 'ukiyo-e' masters, biographical details on him are scant. He produced many prints, pioneering the use of perspective in his landscape prints. In the 1780s he turned to paintings of courtesans of which this is an extraordinary example. The subject is a high-class courtesan, yet its unusual scale would indicate it was created for a special patron or teahouse proprietor who avidly admired the girl. She is sumptuously dressed in between-season robes, boldly decorated with the classic pairing of phoenix and dragon. The distinctive hairdo with its wide side flanges and many combs and ornamental hairpins dates the work to the 1780s, when such hairstyles were the vogue.

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.252.

Bibliography (7)

Julie Nelson Davis, The golden journey: Japanese art from Australian collections, ''Doing everything for effect': performing beauty in ukiyo-e of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries', pg. 152-169, South Australia, 2009, 153 (colour illus.), 311 (colour illus.).

Gary Hickey, Beauty & desire in Edo period Japan, 'Pleasure Town', pg. 25-36, Parkes, 1998, 28 (colour illus.), 70. 21

Jackie Menzies, The Floating World: Japan's world of transient pleasures, Sydney, 1994, cover (colour illus.). C28

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The Floating World', Sydney, 2003, 252 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, Orientations, 'Japanese Figure Painting: From the Public to the Personal', pg. 114-119, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 118 (colour illus.). fig.8

Jackie Menzies and Edmund Capon, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Japanese Painting', pg. 53-69, Sydney, 1990, 54, 65 (colour illus.).

Tadashi KOBAYASHI, Imaging the floating world: Essays on ukiyoe prints and paintings of the Edo period, Bunkyo-ku, 2009, 104 (colour illus.).

Exhibition history (4)

The Floating World: Japan's World of transient pleasures, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 May 1994–17 Jul 1994

Great gifts, great patrons, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 17 Aug 1994–19 Oct 1994

Beauty and Desire in Edo period Japan, National Gallery of Australia, Parkes, 06 Jun 1998–09 Aug 1998

The golden journey: Japanese art from Australian collections, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 06 Mar 2009–13 Jun 2009