Courtesan and Customer at the Ibaraki-ya House
signed Harunobu ga, ca. 1767-68
chuban tate-e 11 1/4 by 8 1/4 in., 28.5 by 20.9 cm
A courtesan stands on the verandah of an establishment identified as the Ibaraki-ya on the noren (split curtain) to her left. She engages a young man by holding the tip of his umbrella suggestively, her other hand is hidden within the sleeve of her kimono which she wraps around the pillar of the porch. He pauses, his body in a forward motion but he turns his head back towards the beauty. The wisp of hair that has come lose from her comb suggest that she is attempting to detain a customer with whom she has already exchanged relations.
The name of the house, Ibaraki-ya, is clear reference to the legend of warrior Watanabe no Tsuna (953-1025) and his encounter with the demoness Ibaraki who was menacing innocents at the Rashomon gateway located at the southern entrance to the city of Kyoto. In the story, Watanabe no Tsuna confronts the demoness on a rainy night, but only manages to cut off her arm which he saves as a prize, locking it away in a chest. Later, Ibaraki disguises herself as his own aunt and manages to talk her way into his home in order to reclaim her arm.
D.B. Waterhouse, Harunobu and His Age: The Development of Colour Printing in Japan, The British Museum, 1964, cat. no. 97 (similar composition by Masanobu)
Jack Hillier, Suzuki Harunobu, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1970, p. 156, cat. no. 92 (frontispiece illustration)
The Beauty and the Actor, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1995, p. 30, no. 17
Chiba City Museum of Art, Suzuki Harunobu, 2002, p. 102, cat. 95 (from MIA)
Matthew Welch et. al, Worldly Pleasures, Earthly Delights: Japanese Prints from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2011, p. 73, no. 41
David Waterhouse, The Harunobu Decade, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2013, Vol. I, p. 158, cat. no. 229
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
December 6, 2018
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475
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