Artist: Suzuki Harunobu
Title: A Beauty Playing the Koto
Date: c. 1767 - 1768
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Suzuki Harunobu is known as the inventor of the brocade (polychrome) print. His entire artistic life was altered by an invention by which as many as thirty different colors could be applied to one print. In 1765, at the age of forty, Harunobu first issued about one hundred magnificently colored prints. For the next five years, until his death in 1770, he issued more than 600 of these popular brocade prints. His depiction of beautiful women dominated the Meiwa era (1764-1772). Michener summarizes Harunobu's prints in the following manner: ".... adorable young girls never past their teens, dream-like heavenly flowers, and some of the most perfect color harmonies attained in art." The girl playing the koto wears a long-sleeved pink kimono, symbolic of youth. The teakettle behind her suggests that she has the discipline necessary to host a tea ceremony, while the writing tools on the chigaidana (staggered shelves) tell us that she is well educated. The iris designs on the small sliding doors at the top would remind viewers of the famous anonymous Heian-period (794-1185) novel The Tales of Ise. Her setting defines her position as a lady from a high-ranking samurai family. (2008)