Kaigetsudō Ando (1671–1743)
Standing Portrait of a Courtesan
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868) c. 1705–10
Hanging scroll; ink, colors and gold on paper
Kaigetsudō Ando was the founder of the Kaigetsudō School, which was famous for its portraits of courtesans. In this hanging scroll, the Kaigetsudō style is evident in the woman’s regal, confident pose, as well as in the thick, calligraphic lines that accentuate the design of her kimono. No prints by Ando survive, a fact that suggests he may have only produced paintings, but print designs by his numerous students and other followers comprise some of the most revered images in the sub-genre of bijinga (portraits of beauties).
The subject of this painting is a high-class courtesan. She is depicted in profile, holding up the front fabric of her kimono before her to enable her stride. Ando describes at least four layers of the woman’s robe, including a white undergarment, over which she wears a red layer decorated with white flowers and tie-dyed accents, an outer garment painted with washes of brown and patterns of blue flowers, and finally an obi sash tied around her waist with a design of hexagon shapes.
Fine line brushwork delineates the courtesan’s delicate face and hairstyle. While the painting is undoubtedly an idealized portrait, Ando was likely depicting a particular courtesan from the Yoshiwara brothel district in Edo. The black design, prominently displayed on the courtesan’s left sleeve, may be the crest of the courtesan’s brothel.
– Amanda Spradling