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Title

Beauty with a cat (Parody of the Third Princess)

1750s


Artist

Nishikawa School

Japan


About

Following the lead of her small cat the young girl steps out from behind the bamboo curtains onto the veranda. Extremely cropped on the right border of the painting is a cherry tree in full bloom. Its trunk describes a sharp bow, echoing the curve of the bamboo curtains and the slender body of the girl. While fashion and hairstyle clearly identify the young lady as an Edo period beauty, an educated audience would recognise in this depiction of a beautiful woman an allusion to the Third Princess, one of the female protagonists in the 11th century classic ‘The Tale of Genji’.

The illicit, tragic ending love affair between the Third Princess, Genji’s second wife, and the courtier Kashiwagi was sparked when her pet cat escaped on the veranda and accidentally lifted the bamboo curtain, exposing her to the gaze of the courtier. The key moment of Chapter 34 in the Tale, this scene belongs to one of the most popular Genji motifs, depicted on numerous folding screens, albums and hanging scrolls. 'Ukiyo-e' artists, however, tended to focus on the figure of the princess and her cat, citing the classical theme to imbue the popular genre of 'bijinga', ‘depictions of beautiful women and men’, with a degree of complexity and refinement.

The painting does not bear any signatures and seals, however, the sensual depiction of the beauty’s face and her graceful posture hints at a work by an artist trained in the tradition of Nishikawa Sukenobu (1671-1751), the most prominent 'ukiyo-e' painter and illustrator working in Kyoto.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, February 2009.


Details


Place where the work was made

Japan


Date

1750s


Media category

Painting


Materials used

hanging scroll; ink, colour and mica on paper


Dimensions

80.0 x 26.0 cm


Credit

D G Wilson Bequest Fund 2009


Location

Not on display


Accession number

12.2009


Artist information

Nishikawa School

Works in the collection

1


Place

Where the work was made
Japan

Referenced in 1 publication

Bibliography


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales annual report 2008–09, Sydney, 2009, 24 (colour illus.).