An image of Merrymaking in the Yoshiwara

Unknown Artist

Merrymaking in the Yoshiwara

Other titles:
Merrymaking in the garden
Not on display
Further information

This rare and exquisitely painted screen, full of detail and sensitive observation, illustrates the elite at play in the pleasure quarters. It is an early example of the distinctive 'ukiyo-e' tradition. The term 'ukiyo-e', literally translated as the 'floating world', was originally a Buddhist expression used to describe the sadly irrelevant and transient nature of the material world and our life on earth. By the seventeenth century Japan's medieval samurai-based culture was being superseded by a newly emergent mercantile class. 'Ukiyo-e' came to define a whole tradition inspired by the colourful lives and times enjoyed by these townspeople, 'chônin', in the pleasure quarters and entertainment districts. Here in a series of vignettes, a picture of the pleasure quarters unfolds: the activities of drinking, taking tea, playing games, listening to music, reading and chatting are all illustrated.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 275.

Place of origin
Japan: Edo (Tokugawa) period 1615–1868
mid 17th century
single six-panel screen; colour and gold leaf on paper
74.0 x 201.4 cm image; 87.2 x 214.4 cm screen
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

Purchased 1986
Accession number