Okumura Masanobu (Japanese, 1686–1764)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
33 1/8 x 12 7/8 in. (84.1 x 32.7 cm)
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975 (1975.268.126)
The young man strolling with an alluring courtesan plucks a whisker in the stylish hedonism affected by bon vivants of eighteenth-century Edo. In this painting, Okumura Masunobu, one of the most versatile artists to portray the theater and brothels in woodblock prints, gives an irreverent twist to a classical theme in an urbane parody of a story immortalized by the poet and statesman Ariwara no Yukihira (818893). Two of Yukihira's poems tell of his love for the sisters Matsukaze and Murasame, who, like him, were brought by misfortune to the lonely shores of Suma. Their love for Yukihira, during his three-year exile there, their heartbreak at his departure, and his parting gift of court robe and hat were well known through several popular kabuki plays.
Here, draped on the fabled pine of Suma, is the stylish coat and cap of an Edo bourgeoisnot Yukihira's court hat, which is seen in the crest on his sleeves. Erotic Heian and Edo motifs decorate the couple's robes; the samisen on hers symbolizes the accomplished geisha, while the lattice and bamboo blinds on his evoke the secrecy of Heian romances. A palette of primary colors and gold heightens the contrast between their hedonistic world and that of the ink-painted shores of Suma.