The Courtesan Tamagiku (Jade Chrysanthemum)

Toyohara Kunichika

 

This print depicts the Courtesan Tamagiku (Jade Chrysanthemum). During the *Kyōhō era there was a courtesan named Tamagiku at *Nakamanya in *Shin-Yoshiwara Kado-cho district. She excelled not only in her beauty but also in various arts. Customers of course, tea-house owners, boat lodging operators, letter messengers all enjoyed her generous nature at the hight of her golden days. However, at age of 25 she caught an autumn cold. Neither the herb roots nor the tree bark remedies could help her. Soon after she wilted like a winter chrysanthemum and passed away.

 

In July of the next year at the first Bon (Festival of the Dead) after her death for the repose of her soul the Katobushi (a kind of Joruri - narrative with low pitched shamisen music) was performed, and the district was decorated with Bon Festival lanterns. This has become an annual event since that time. The gentle silk fabric blowing in the wind behind her completes the composition. Her elaborate hair style, and elegant kimono is striking.

 

Amy Reigle Newland devoted a whole paragraph on page 18 to the significance of this series, i.e., Zen-aku sanjūroku bijin, at the beginning of her book on Kunichika: "Thirty-six good and evil beauties (Zen-aku sanjūroku bijin)... of 1876 is arguably one of Kunichika's most accomplished forays into bijinga. The quality of printing is superb. His treatment of the subject is fluid, the women portrayed energetic, wild, their poses at times reminiscent of those encountered in the work of earlier artists like Kuniyoshi and Kunisada, and in his own actor prints... Each sheet in Thirty-six good and evil beauties illustrates a famous woman from distant or more recent history with an explanatory cartouche above by a contemporary writer."

 

Condition: Margins as shown, fair condition, stain on hair.

Date: 1876