View of the Sumidagawa from the Temporary Quarters of the Ogiya at Nakasu
each sheet signed Eishi ga with red artist's seal and publisher's mark and seal Eijuhan (Nishimuraya Yohachi of Eijuido), ca.1788
oban tate-e triptych 15 by 29 1/2 in., 38 by 75 cm
Born Hosoda Tokitomo, Eishi was the first son of a high-ranking samurai family that was part of the powerful Fujiwara clan. After the death of his father in 1772, he became the head of his family and in 1781 he attained a position in the palace of the shogun Tokugawa Ieharu (1737-1786) which provided him with a generous stipend. It is thought that he studied painting during his time at the court under Kano Eisen'in Michinobu (1730-1790), who may have given him his art name, Eishi. Eishi resigned from his official duties in 1784, possibly for health reasons, and began to study under a minor ukiyo-e artist named Torii Bunryusai. The following year Eishi began designing prints, although he remained in the service of the shogun until 1789. While his early prints were presented within conservative literary themes appropriate to a man of his rank and stature, with time he ventured further into the heart of ukiyo-e-excelling at images of courtesans and scenes of the pleasure quarters. He established a school of artists that included Eisho (fl. ca. 1795-1801), Eiri (fl. ca. 1795-1800), and Eisui (fl. ca. 1795-1803), and his work rivalled that of Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) and later, Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806).
This scene depicts a group of eight women with three children attendants entertaining a solitary customer. The handsome figure seated at the far right is a wakashu, a young man who has not completed the coming-of-age ceremony after which he would shave his forelock to indicate his status as an adult. His light cotton robe is open to his chest, perhaps to provide some relief from the heat generated by the brazier in front of him upon which a courtesan is preparing some food. Another beauty in a striped over-robe stands by his side, while a diminutive kamuro wanders in with a sake kettle, looking a bit unsure of herself. In the center panel a seated shinzo (teenaged apprentice courtesan) strums on a shamisen while looking towards a ranking courtesan standing over her. The shoji (sliding doors) are wide open to the balcony where another shinzo leans on the balustrade and seems amused by something up the river in the direction that a young boy is pointing. On the left sheet another ranking courtesan stands holding a tobacco pipe beside a second kamuro holding a tobacco set. Two shinzo seated on the floor have lost interest in a poetry card set which lies open with cards scattered on the floor. One pets a small dog that she is holding on her lap while the other is engrossed in reading a letter beside a standing lantern. The hanging lanterns suspended from the eaves are decorated with a crest of folding fans, ogi, and the character 'ya' in kanji and hiragana, and variations of the fan crest are found on the kimono of four of the women and one of the kamuro.
The location is identifiable as the second floor of the temporary home of the Ogiya brothel with a view of the Sumidagawa towards the eastern shore of the river and the canals and masonry warehouses of the Fukugawa district. A variety of covered boats and open chokibune (water taxis) are visible navigating their passengers on the busy conduit. A devastating fire in the fall of 1787 destroyed most of the licensed pleasure quarters at Yoshiwara and as a result, some brothels were given special permission to relocate temporarily to Nakasu--an area of filled-in waterfront along the western shore of the Sumidagawa which had been recently developed in the early 1770s. By the 1780s it had grown into a thriving entertainment district with popular restaurants that were ideally situated for summertime parties such as this one. The houses that relocated to Nakasu were likely there through the summer of 1788. Jenkins notes that this early design by Eishi displays the enduring influence of Kiyonaga on images of beauties during the golden age of ukiyo-e.
Ukiyo-e Taikei, vol. VI, 1975, no. 165-7
Klaus J. Brandt, Hosoda Eishi 1756-1829, 1977, pl. 11, fig. 157, list no. 81
Ukiyo-e Shuka, vol. IX, 1980, p. 171, nos. 165-167 (Portland Art Museum)
Donald Jenkins, The Floating World Revisited, 1993, pp. 110-113, no. I-5 (Portland Art Museum)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, ex William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.14152-4
Portland Art Museum, Oregon, ex Mary Andrews Ladd Collection
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