Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hanaogi of the Ogiya

Hosoda Eishi  "A portrait of the courtesan Hanaogi of the Ogiya preparing to decorate a fan"  
ca. late 1700's   private collection

Japanese artist Hosoda Eishi (1756-1829) made this portrait of the courtesan Hanaogi, one of the most renowned courtesans of the Kansei era (from about 1789 to 1801.) Hanaogi was celebrated not only for her beauty but for her exquisite brushwork and painting ability. Despite her "stardom" and her high ranking in the cadre of minutely organized brothel society, it can't have been a way of life she desired: Hanaogi is known to have tried to run away on more than one occasion.   She actually escaped from the tightly patrolled pleasure district in 1794 but was caught and returned. Hanaogi was a favorite subject for major artists of her time like Utamaro, Isoda Koryusai, Eisen and many others.

Hosoda Eishi is reported to have had a high-ranking Samurai family background. It's unusual for artists in the Japan of this period to have such a privileged lineage. The career of artist at that time was considered to be no more prestigious than that of any average tradesperson. The reasons behind Eishi becoming an artist (apart from his obvious talent) are not known.


Alexandra Tyng said...

Thank you for this interesting post about two unusual people, the artist who made the painting and the artist he painted. I love the way your blog spans cultures and time periods. You certainly know how to tell a memorable story.

Nancy Bea Miller said...

Oh you're welcome! The whole field of study of the history of asian women artists is rich and fascinating! There's also almost no differentiation between calligraphy and "picture making", and often poetry-writing was also included in one artistic package. Many of the women artists we still know about today were courtesans, simply because their skill was publicly celebrated.