Torii Kiyonobu I
1700, 4th month

From: (Keisei ehon) “Picture Book of Courtesans” orihon, 26.7 x 17.6 cm; urushi-e, dated (on last page)

From the “Picture Book of Courtesans”(Keisei ehon) Originally the prints from this series were included in a folding album (orihon). Here the courtesan Takao is sitting lost in thought next to her opened writing box. Her kimono is decorated with elements from a Shintō shrine, a bridge and pine trees. Takao’s crest, a maple leaf, is a reference to the village of Takao near Kyōto, which is still famous for its beautiful maple trees.

Geyger, inv.no.16388 (KG #34 / KGE p.34)

Leaf two shows the courtesan Takao as depicted in the sixteenth illustration of the book. She is sitting with her head resting thoughtfully in her hands, leaning on an armrest. Sheets of paper with writing are lying on her raised knees, while an open writing case lies nearby. Her kimono is decorated with elements of a Shintō shrine (torii and the roof of a house), pine trees and an arched bridge. Takao’s crest, a maple leaf, refers to the village Takao near Kyoto, which is still renowned today for its maple trees. A poem by this courtesan has survived, in which she addresses an unfaithful, vacillating lover thus:

And as for you,
you are like the cuckoo,
flying over the Komagata-dō.

Hiroshige still depicted this temple near the Azuma-bashi (bridge) in Tokyo with a cuckoo flying over it (series Meisho Edo Hyakkei („Famous views of Edo“), publ. 1856-1859, Sheet no. 55).

The cuckoo (hototogisu) has inspired innumerable verses by Japanese poets since the Middle Ages. It is known not only as a bird heralding the coming of Spring, whose song coincides with rice-planting, but also as a symbol of unfaithful love. The cuckoo flies up and away and does not repeat its call again, just as unfaithful love passes once and for all. In the Shidare yanagi Takao is the model used for the courtesan Karahashi (double sheet „ho“).