Torii Kiyomasu I
Courtesan with shinzō under an Umbrella in the Snow“

Signed: Torii Kiyomasu; artist’s seal: Kiyomasu kakemono-e, ō-ōban, 70.0 x 30.0 cm; sumizuri-e, hand-coloured (possibly a reprint from the the late Edo period, later coloured in the Meiji period)

Torii Kiyomasu I’s work is more extensive and diverse than that of Kiyonobu I; his large-format courtesan pictures are particularly outstanding, and in them he demonstrates that he is a master of brushwork. ukiyo-e prints in this large format are called kakemono-e, they were produced as scrolls, representing a less expensive “substitute” for original, hand-painted kakemono (nikuhitsu-ga).

Geyger, inv.no.16359 (KG p.42 / KGE p.44)

A courtesan is taking a work with her maid through the winter snow. Just a few brush marks at the feet of the two women and on the umbrella serve to suggest the snow-covered scenery. Similarly, wintery landscape reappears in the heavy kimono of the oiran with its large, snow-laden pine trees, creating a second, artificial landscape which is more prominent than the scenery indicated in the background. The contained power of the oiran with her plump face, contrasts with the lightness, grace and trustfulness to be seen in the profile of the youthful maid, who offers the oiran the umbrella she is holding with both hands. The inclination of the two faces towards each other directs our attention to the slender hand of the oiran who gasps the umbrella. The maid’s jacket displays moons, probably empty crest circles, while artfully folded love letters float along the border. Above the border of her kimono, large plum blossoms lie on the crossed blanks of a bridge. Pine and plum trees are winter’s faithful companions and are symbols of constancy and friendship. They also stand for the ever-present vitality of nature, which slowly comes to life in the first months of the year even in the numb rigors of the winter cold. Snow, moons and blossoms (setsu-gekka) stand for a motif which refers to a poem by the Chinese poet Bo Juyi (722-866?), who was already very popular in the Heian Period.

In this large format leaf, Kiyomasu emphasizes different brush-strokes which, according to east Asian principles, should be employed when painting different materials or themes. The robes of each woman are painted in strong, waxing and waning lines, bows and curves, which attempt to imitate the folds of sumptuous silk. They underline the powerful corpulence, particularly of the oiran. Finer, more sensitive, but nonetheless structured lines are used by the artist for faces and hands. Absolutely even lines are used to depict the soft snow and the umbrella as geometric shapes. Within the closed composition, additional accents are given by way of just a few black areas – the hair of the two women in the upper part – and the wrap-around cloak of the oiran, as well as the crossed planks on the kamuro’s robe, in the lower part. A better preserved impression of this woodblock is in the possession of the Ainsworth Collection, Allen Memorial Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio. Our copy probably comes from the Yamamoto Collection, Tokyo.