Kikumaro Tsukimaro
Kitagawa Kikumaro detail
Kitagawa Kikumaro detail

Kitagawa Kikumaro (Tsukimaro), fl. ca. 1800's-20's

House for Sale Calligraphy
(Uriie kakimono zu)

signed Kikumaro hitsu, with publisher's seal Mura (Murataya Jirobei of Eiyudo), ca. 1800

oban tate-e triptych 30 1/4 by 15 3/8 in., 76.7 by 39 cm

Tsukimaro was a pupil of the great Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806). Working in a style very similar to that of his teacher, he signed his early works, Kikumaro, and then Tsukimaro, after 1804. Increasingly concentrating on paintings, in 1818 he began signing his works Kansetsu.

At first glance this appears to be a gathering for the benefit of the handsome young man at center who is demonstrating his calligraphy skills for an audience of no less than nine beauties. However the text reveals a more commercial purpose. His bold script on the large wood signboard (the iron hanging hardware visible at the top edge) reads: Genkin (cash), Kakene nashi (no profit), O yasuri (sale). The beauty seated immediately behind him holds a string-bound bundle of paper with a cover that reads: Daifuku cho (book-keeping ledger).

It would seem that this is a view of either a sign-maker's studio (and a very handsome one at that), or he is working on site at the location of a sale. The women, although fully clothed, are rather risqué with their appearances: in the center panel the collar of the bijin holding the ledger book is loose enough to reveal the curve of her breasts; at far right a standing beauty adjusts her hair while her kimono carelessly opens at the hem to reveal not only her red under-robe but a shocking glimpse of her leg. The atmosphere is very leisurely; most of the girls are taking it easy and chatting while they watch the calligrapher at work. The only one otherwise engaged is a kneeling beauty at far right who is consumed by a love letter, the contents of which are tantalizingly vague. The double entendre, of course, is that the contents of the house, all of these beautiful women, are indeed for sale.

SOLD

kikumon

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site last updated
September 14, 2019

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