Ippitsusai Bunchō
Teahouse Ichimonjiya

Signed: Ippitsusai Bunchō ga, artist’s seal: Mori uji; hosoban, 30.6 x 13.9 cm; nishiki-e

Both Bunchō and Harunobu created drawings of famous servants at teahouses at around the same time, roughly 1767–1769. Many of Bunchō’s designs were of Osen from Kagiya at the Kasamori-Inari shrine in Edo, of whom over 40 ukiyo-e portraits have survived to this day. The name of the beauty depicted here is, however, unknown. The drawing of the figure is not yet entirely convincing, but Bunchō manages to create a fascinating overall impression by using unusual colours.

Provenance: A. Rouart, Paris (Vignier et Inada); F. Tikotin, La Tour de Peilz (October 1971)
Riese Collection #36

In the late 1760s certain waitresses at outdoor public teashops in the precincts of frequented temples and shrines gained renown throughout Edo for their charm and beauty. The most celebrated of these waitresses, Osen of the Kagiya, at the Kasamori Shrine, became the subject of a popular kabuki play and was portrayed in over forty surviving woodblock prints by Harunobu, Shunshō, and Bunchō. Other young women were singled out and commemorated in prints, particularly Ofuji, the daughter of the proprietor of a shop selling tooth brushes at the Kinryūzan Temple in Asakusa. The woman in this print, a waitress or even the proprietress of the Ichimonjiya, is known only by this portrait. She wears a crest of ivy on her sleeve identical to that used by the famous Osen, but the banana tree and the reversed swastika on the lantern at the left are not associated with Kasamori, but with another unidentified locale. This impression, which is apparently unique, was singled out by Vignier and Inada and reproduced in colour in their catalogue.

Reproduced in Vignier and Inada, Kiyonaga, Bunchō, Sharaku, no. 161, pl. XLII.