Ichirakutei Eisui, (fl. ca. 1790s - 1800s) woodblock print
Beauties for the Five Festivals: Tsukasa of the Ogiya
(Biijin Gosekku: Ogiya Tsukasa akeiha keioko)
the courtesan Tsukasa of the Ogiya emerging from underneath a mosquito net, she holds in her hand a fan decorated with a man standing on a verandah; signed Ichirakutei Eisui ga, published by Maruya Bun'emon ca. 1795-97
oban tate-e 15 1/8 by 10 1/8 in., 38.3 by 25.6 cm
This series of five prints commemorates the five main festivals of the year. The Tanabata Festival (or Star Festival), held on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, originates from the Chinese Kikkoden (or Qixi) Festival, and was adopted by the Kyoto Imperial Palace during the Heian Period (794-1885). By the Edo Period the festival had evolved with the Obon (or 'Bon') festivals which honor ancestral spirits, often during the same lunar month, and became known as the Tanabata.
The Tanabata Festival is actually based on a legend associated with a celestial event- the meeting of the Vega star and the Altair star across the Milky Way, described in the legend of the married lovers, Orihime (the Weaving Princess, or the Vega star), and Hikoboshi (the Herdsman, or the Altair star). The pair were separated by Orihime's father, Tentei ('heavenly king') after they married because he was angry the Princess had stopped weaving her beautiful silks and Hikoboshi was neglecting his cows. He placed the Amanogawa River (a river of stars, ie. the Milky Way) between them and forbade the two to meet. He was eventually moved by his daughter's tears and relented, allowing them to reunite once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month.
Eisui cleverly alludes to the legend by having the courtesan emerge from the mosquito net, the underside decorated with a star pattern, referencing the Milky Way, with her herdsman facing her on the fan.
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