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Kawamata Tsunemasa, active about 1740-50
Courtesan Procession in the Snow
About late 1740s
Ink, color, and gold on paper

This scene depicts a courtesan and her two kamuro (pre-adolescent attendants) walking through the snow. A manservant, likely an employee of the brothel to which the courtesan was indentured, shelters them with a large parasol. The figure dressed in black is one of the courtesan's clients. His costume, known as a zukin, was first used by bunraku puppeteers to minimize their presence during performances. Samurai later adopted this form of dress so that they could patronize the brothel districts in relative anonymity. The yanagi tree sets this scene at the entrance to Kyoto's premier red-light district, Shimabara, which had a large willow tree growing near its main entrance. The poem inscribed on this painting makes further reference to this.

Yuki no te o 
nigiru deguchi no
yanagi kana
Fingers of snow
cling to the willow
near the exit

Little is known of the artist, Kawamata Tsunemasa, although there are approximately thirty surviving paintings bearing his signature. He worked primarily in the Kyoto area, and most of his work falls into the category of ukiyo-e or "floating world pictures," a style that looked to the brothel and entertainment districts of urban centers for much of its subject matter. Tsunemasa's style and choice of subjects for this painting reveals his familiarity with the work of print designers active at the time.

Hood Museum of Art, purchased through gifts from William Little, Robert Christy and by exchange; P.998.40

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Copyright (c) 2000, Mayumi Ishida, All Rights Reserved Last Updated: April 11, 2000