The Courtesan’s New Shamisen of Erotic Love
(Keisei shinshoku shamisen 傾城新色三味線), vol. 2: Edo
Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), 1712
Woodblock-printed book; ink on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003
Similar to the scene depicted by Masanobu in the print displayed nearby, a tayū is escorted in a formal procession from her brothel to the house of assignation (ageya) or teahouse to meet a client. Her adolescent assistant (kamuro) and her trainee (shinzō) lead carrying their three-stringed shamisen for playing music, followed by the tayū, and concluding with the wakaimono (male attendant) shading the courtesan with a parasol. In a comical twist, however, the procession is here shown being delayed by a pair of bumbling samurai who have mistaken the shinzō for someone else they are trying to find. Breaking her customary silence, the tayū scolds the men.
The term keisei (courtesan) found in the title of this text literally means “castle toppler.” The euphemism originated from a Chinese tale of Madame Li, a woman from the Han dynasty (206 B.C. - 220 A.D.) whose beauty was so bewitching that she was able to dictate the fate of entire kingdoms.
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