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Loan Object
Artist: Yashima Gakutei, Japanese, ca. 1786–ca. 1855

White Cat Reflected in a Lacquer Dresser

probably 1830 (Year of the Tiger)

Surimono, shikishi-ban; polychrome woodblock print with brass pigment and gauffrage

sheet: 8 9/16 × 7 1/2 in. (21.7 × 19 cm)
Promised gift of Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, B.A. 1970
ILE2017.30.206

八島岳亭 囲い猫 江戸時代

This striking print shows a cat hissing at its own reflection on the side of a black lacquer mirrored dresser. The cat wears a collar made of red tie-dyed (shibori) cloth, reminiscent of courtesans’ underdress. Given this, one interpretation of the imagery may be that the frightened cat represents a courtesan, confronting in the mirror the truth of her identity as someone who makes herself up to please customers. The cat’s fright plays out in an almost voyeuristic view of a brothel-like room, complete with a folding screen standing in the background, demarcating a private space. The three kyōka poems, full of puns that invite various readings, all usher the viewer into a house of pleasure and the ephemeral world of the courtesan.

Geography: 
Japan
Status: 
On view
Culture: 
Japanese
Period: 
Edo period (1615–1868)
Classification: 
Works on Paper - Prints
Provenance: 

Joanna Haab Schoff collection; acquired by Joan B. Mirviss (dealer), New York; sold to Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, Koenigstein im Taunus, Germany, 2013 (on loan to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2017–present)

Bibliography: 

Joan B. Mirviss and John T. Carpenter, Jewels of Japanese Printmaking: Surimono of the Bunka-Bunsei Era 1804–1830 (Tokyo: Ota Memorial Museum of Art, 2000), 116–17, no. 68, back cover.

Sadako Ohki and Adam Haliburton, The Private World of Surimono: Japanese Prints from the Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian Collection (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2020), 72–74, no. 14, cover ill. (front), ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.