Musikerinnen | anonym | 18. Jh.

Female musicians | anonymous | 18th century

Paintings from the entertainment districts, where much of the best art of the Edo period (1603-1867) was based, have often remained anonymous. Sometimes we only know the school to which the painter may have belonged, but often we have no references at all. This is also the case with this picture. The stylization of the two figures corresponds to a widespread ideal of female representations of the time. But the scroll painting stands out in some aspects above the good average of genre paintings of that era. First of all, we could mention the mounting. The dark brown-red patterned fabric of the picture frame (chūmawashi) is of Indian origin. This was considered a luxurious material at the time, because the Edo period was characterized by strict isolation - only a few goods from outside reached Japan.

The longing for a foreign world, however, was primarily focused on European art. However, there were few opportunities for Japanese artists to specifically engage with Western representational techniques. The most suitable material for study was etchings or other prints of Dutch origin. The most astonishing thing for the Japanese was the central perspective of European art, which had been the basis for spatial and architectural representation since the Renaissance.

In this picture, the suite of rooms (almost entirely) obeys the rules of central perspective. But what is fascinating here is not the mastery of the technique, but the loving handling of details - such as the reference to a scroll painting in the back room or a golden sliding door. The use of colors is clearly structural: shades of brown predominate, but white, red, brown, gray-blue and sparse gold not only make the rooms appear precious - a veritable color direction (especially the use of white) has the function of connecting the two ladies in the foreground with the background of the picture. The unity of space and figure is as successful and enchanting here as in Dutch genre pictures by Pieter de Hooch in the 17th century.

Dimensions: 41cm x 165cm | Material: Paper

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