Utagawa School, 19th century
Preparatory Drawing of a Beauty Scolding a Cat Playing with her Brocade Obi
sumi ink on paper, unsigned, with notations regarding colors, ca. 1820-30s
conserved on achival paper 15 3/4 by 11 in., 40.1 by 27.8 cm
The image of a cat tangled up in an obi is a classic allusion to The Third Princess (Nyosan) from the The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari). In chapter 34, New Herbs: Part One (Wakana I), Kashiwagi (the son of Genji's close friend To no Chujo) first spies the Third Princess when her cat upsets a bamboo screen as she watched a group of young nobles playing kemari (football) under cherry blossoms. This first encounter leads to an ill-fated affair which results in a pregnancy. Although Genji knew that the child, Kaoru, was not his son, he raised him as his own. Kashiwagi is consumed by guilt and dies; while the Princess likewise cannot live with her transgression and becomes a nun. The subject of Nyosan and her cat became a popular reference in ukiyo-e prints and paintings. An image with a beauty and a cat, usually on her hem, became visual short-hand for the Genji episode.
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site last updated
October 28, 2021
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
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