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An image of Merrymaking in the Yoshiwara by Unknown


(Japan  – )

Merrymaking in the Yoshiwara
Other titles:
Merrymaking in the garden
Place of origin
Edo (Tokugawa) period 1615 - 1868 → Japan
mid 17th century
Media category
Materials used
single six-fold screen; colour and gold leaf on paper

74.0 x 201.4 cm image; 87.2 x 214.4 cm screen

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased 1986
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

This rare and exquisitely painted screen, full of detail and sensitive observation, illustrates the elite at play in the pleasure quarters. It is an early example of the distinctive 'ukiyo-e' tradition. The term 'ukiyo-e', literally translated as the 'floating world', was originally a Buddhist expression used to describe the sadly irrelevant and transient nature of the material world and our life on earth. By the seventeenth century Japan's medieval samurai-based culture was being superseded by a newly emergent mercantile class. 'Ukiyo-e' came to define a whole tradition inspired by the colourful lives and times enjoyed by these townspeople, 'chônin', in the pleasure quarters and entertainment districts. Here, in a series of enchanting vignettes, the picture of the pleasure quarters unfolds: the activities of drinking, taking tea, playing games, listening to music, reading and chatting are all illustrated.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 275.

Bibliography (8)

AJIOKA Chiaki (Curator), Heroes and villains: from Japan's floating world, Sydney, May 2001, 7. 3.1

Gary Hickey, Beauty & desire in Edo period Japan, 'Low City, High City', pg. 7-12, Parkes, 1998, 8 (colour illus.), 70. 2

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 275 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, Orientations, 'Japanese Figure Painting: From the Public to the Personal', pg. 114-119, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 115 (colour illus.). fig.2

Jackie Menzies, The Art Gallery of New South Wales collections, 'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan', pg. 173-228, Sydney, 1994, 223 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, The Floating World: Japan's world of transient pleasures, Sydney, 1994, (colour illus.). M1

Jacqueline Menzies, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian', pg. 72-93, Sydney, 1988, 84-85 (colour illus.).

Public Programmes Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales and The Japan Foundation (Editors), Art speaks Japanese: Japanese language education kit from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2007, colour illus.. card no. 06

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

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

Heroes and Villains, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 19 May 2001–19 Aug 2001

The art of Japanese screen painting, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Nov 2004–06 Feb 2005