83.7 x 33.0cm image; 177.0 x 47.0 x 52.4cm scroll [height x width x rod]
A sense of deep sadness pervades this image of a 'bijin', an idealised beauty, as she sits in isolation staring at a letter unrolled before her, perhaps contemplating a bleak future. Certainly there is an air of despair, of rejection and poignant introspection to the image. The poem above, written by the satirical poet and writer of popular fiction Ota Nampo (1749-1823), tells of her plight in commenting upon the life of
'A courtesan, twenty-seven years old,
laments the ten years spent on the bitter ocean.
her life appears a mirage
now she is leaving the quarter'
The expression 'bitter ocean' usually refers to life as a prostitute, and twenty-six or twenty-seven was the usual age at which courtesans were released from their contracts. Something of the harshness of such a life is subtly echoed in the sharply outlined folds of the rich red kimono. The strong graphic character of the image, the subject matter, and the bold colours and rich decorative effect typify the unashamedly popularist 'ukiyo-e' style.
Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 277.
Jackie Menzies (Australia) (Author), Art of the Brush - Chinese & Japanese painting calligraphy, Sydney, 1995, 24.
Jackie Menzies (Australia) (Author), The Floating World: Japan's world of transient pleasures, Sydney, 1994, illus.. cat.no. C25
Look Apr 1997, Apr 1997, 25 (colour illus.).
Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales 1990, 1990, cover (colour illus.).
Ewen McDonald (Australia) (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, Sydney, 1994, 225 (colour illus.).
Gary Hickey (Author), Beauty & desire in Edo period Japan, Parkes, 1998, 31, 34 (colour illus.), 71. fig.no. 29
'Bridging cultures' by Judith White, pg. 38., Look May 1999, May 1999, 38.
Bruce James (Australia) (Author), Edmund Capon (England; Australia, b.1940) (Director), Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, Domain, 1999, 277 (colour illus.).
'Bringing Australia Asian Culture' by Judith White, pg. 36-37., Look Apr 2000, Apr 2000, 36 (colour illus.).
KUKI Shûzô (Japan, b.1888, d.1941) (Author), John Clark (Australia) (Translater), Reflections on Japanese taste: the structure of iki, Sydney, 1997, cover (colour illus.), 24 (detail, illus.), 36 (illus.). The colour illus. on the cover is a detail of this work.
'Japanese Figure Painting: From the Public to the Personal' by Jackie Menzies, pg. 114-119., Orientations Sep 2000, Sep 2000, 119 (colour illus.). fig.9
'The Floating World', The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales 2003, 2003, 253 (colour illus.).
'The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia' by Margaret White, pg. 12., Passage Sep 2009, Sep 2009, 12 (colour illus.).
The Floating World Revisited, Portland Art Museum, 26 Oct 1993–30 Dec 1993.
The Floating World Revisited, Cleveland Museum of Art, 02 Feb 1994–03 Apr 1994.
The Floating World: Japan's World of transient pleasures, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 25 May 1994–17 Jul 1994.
Art of the brush, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 23 Sep 1995–12 Nov 1995.
Beauty and Desire in Edo period Japan, National Gallery of Australia, 06 Jun 1998–09 Aug 1998.