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Courtesan playing with a cat

Laura Allen, Curator of Japanese Art at the Asian Art Museum discusses a monochrome woodblock print of a courtesan playing with a cat from the Grabhorn collection. Created by Asian Art Museum.

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Video transcript

the print shows one of the high-ranking courtesans the famous celebrities of the pleasure quarter she's sitting on a box and she is dangling a hand towel over the head of a small cat teasing it the sash tied at the front of her robe confirms her status as a courtesan curator Laura Allen her pose is kind of provocative she has her knees slightly spread apart that's not a genteel pose the Box on which his sitting is labeled with the name of business located in the city of Edo it was a confectionery shop in Lhasa do you and you can also see behind her legs the image of a monkey a Japanese macaque in Japanese masado that's the shops emblem so it's possible that the owner of the shop paid for the design of this print as a way of promoting its fortunes this print is an example of a large format that was used in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries perhaps to mimic the look of a more expensive hanging scroll it comes from the early phase of printmaking when most of the prints were just monochrome black outlines on paper one of the other two known remaining copies of this print is hand-colored suggesting that was an option for owners either to order or to execute themselves you