Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), Courtesan with Client

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), 1786-1865

Courtesan with Client

signed Gototei Kunisada ga, ca. 1825

oban yoko-e 10 3/8 by 15 3/8 in., 26.2 by 39 cm

An evening view of a courtesan and her companion walking beneath a flowering plum tree outside a gated area. She takes a step forward while lifting the many layers of her kimono which exposes a saucy peek at her ankle and steadies herself by holding onto his arm. They turn to watch an older man with a large bundle on his back raise a stick up high to fend off two menacing dogs.

In the 1810s and 20s several artists and publishers started to produce horizontal oban prints that depict scenes of everyday life within the context of a landscape. Earlier ukiyo-e, unabashedly self-absorbed and devoted to exploring life's carnal pleasures and entertainments (both public and intimate) or idealized and humorous vingettes, would often logically remain within interiors where those activities took place, or if the subject was in an exterior setting, the figures would dominate the compostion with a few key clues to define the location. Landscapes as a subject unto themselves barely existed in single sheet prints. This developing format of smaller-scaled figures within a larger landscape (or townscape) was apparently popular enough to inspire competition and imitation, as several artists and publishers produced similar works. Very often the design was confined to the lower 3/4 of the sheet by a band of stylized clouds running across the top of the composition creating empty space in the upper area in a way that mimicked the format of the privately published illustrated albums of kyoka poems of the late 1790s and early 1800s which themselves were mimicking the mountings of a handscroll.

This early print by Utagawa Kunisada (apparently unrecorded) is one of only perhaps less than ten designs of this type that he produced during this period, some of which are known to have been published by Nishimuraya Yohachi of Eijudo around 1825.



Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm for no more than two individuals at a time.
In order to adhere to New York State guidelines visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing.

site last updated
February 26, 2021

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