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.



Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays, 11am - 5pm, by appointment.

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit.

site last updated
February 26, 2020

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475