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: Courtesan beneath a Mosquito Net

Courtesan beneath a Mosquito Net

Hanging scroll
Calligrapher: Honda Jinzaburo (1781-1861)
Artist: Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 (1786-1864)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1855
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 101.5 x 38.5 cm (39 15/16 x 15 3/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Harold P. Stern Memorial Fund
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
This scene of a courtesan emerging from beneath a mosquito net as her cat returns her gaze alludes to a well-known episode from the eleventh-century literary work The Tale of Genji. Prince Genjis wife, the Third princess, was concealed from public view, as was the custom among women of high status. When her cat pushed aside a bamboo blind, however, the Third princess was revealed to the courtier Kashiwagi, and thus began a secret affair between the two. Mitate (incongruous comparisons between courtly literature and modern urban life) were a popular visual device in Edo art.

Inscribed at the top of the painting is a poem by Honda Jinzaburo (17811861), whose pen name was Tenmei Rojin. The poem alludes to the source of mosquito netsthe vendorsfrom Omi near Lake Biwaand to the trysts of courtesans beneath the netting on steamy summer nights.

No matter whom
the maiden meets
under the omi net,
her arm shows the mark
of a mosquitos stinger.

Translation by John Carpenter

Private collection, Japan [1]

To 1995
Mayuyama & Co. Ltd., Tokyo, to 1995

From 1995
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Mayuyama & Co. Ltd. in 1995


[1] This object was offered in auction at Christie's, New York in 1994 and failed to sell; it was returned to its owner in Japan and remarketed through Mayuyama and Co. (see Curatorial Note 3, James Ulak, December 1995, in the object record).

Former owner
Mayuyama & Co., Ltd.
On View Location
Currently not on view
courtesan, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kakemono, ukiyo-e, WWII-era provenance
Collection(s) Area
Japanese Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

As renovation work continues in the Freer Gallery, the Sackler Gallery also will close on July 10, 2017. This museum-wide closure will allow us to completely reinstall our exhibitions and revitalize features to improve your visit. Both spaces will reopen on October 14, 2017, when we will welcome the public back to the Freer|Sackler: two galleries, one destination. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.