Kaigetsudô Ando (壊月堂安度 c. 1671–1743, act. c. 1704-36) was the founder of a noteworthy and influential school of ukiyo-e artists specializing in portrayals of courtesans rendered in a monumental style. Critics have lauded the Kaigetsudô beauties — James Michener called them "the "finest symbol of ukiyo-e" and Richard Lane described them as the "Bodhisattva of the demimonde" and "bold memorials to Japanese womanhood." Lane went further, stating that "there is something more to the Kaigetsudô paintings than a picture of a courtesan: indeed, in order to enjoy these paintings to the fullest degree, one must develop something of the Japanese love and appreciation for the kimono as a work of art," and that what is depicted is "something more than a simple girl: there is, shall we say, a whole culture involved."
Ando (安度 also read as Yasunori), who lived in Asakusa Suwa-chô in Edo, apparently produced only paintings (roughly 30 survive), including handscrolls. Ando's family name was Okazawa (岡沢) or Okazaki (岡崎), his common name was Dewa-ya Genshichi (出羽屋原七), and he also used the art name Kun'unshi (翰運子). He sometimes included only "Kaigetsudô" (壊月堂) in his signature, but then accompanied it by his artist seal reading "Ando." He probably had training in Chinese-inspired academic Kano (狩野) and Nanga (南画) literati painting.
In the large kakemono-e (hanging scroll picture: 掛物絵) on the right, made with ink and colors on paper, Ando portrayed a courtesan walking against a strong gust of wind as her obi (sash: 帯) and outer robe are swept back by the disturbance. Such animation, however slight, in a composition by a Kaigetsudô artist is unusual. Even so, she maintains her regal bearing, a characteristic of the genre, and her elaborately decorated robes are a focal point, another constant in Kaigetsudô paintings and prints.
In 1714 Ando was exiled to the island of Izu Oshima due to his association with a merchant named Tsuga-ya Zenroke who was implicated in a scandal now referred to as the Ejima Ikushima jiken (Ejima-Ikushima affair: 江島生島事件). Lady Ejima, the principal lady-in-waiting to the shogun's mother, left the Ôoku ("Great interior," the shogun's women's quarters: 大奥) to visit the grave of the late shôgun Tokugawa Ienobu (1662-1712). While away, and against strict rules and etiquette, she accepted an invitation to attend a kabuki performance from the popular actor Ikushima Shingorô (生島新五郎 1671–1743) at the Yamamura-za, Edo. After the performance, she invited the actor and others to a party at a tea house. The festivities ran late and Ejima missed the closing of the gates to the Ôoku. When Eijima's behavior was discovered, a power struggle ensued between factions advising the shogun Tokugawa Ietsugu (1709-16). The Ôoku was investigated and numerous infractions were uncovered. Ultimately, 1,300 people were punished. Shingorô was banished from Edo until 1742 and the Yamamura-za was shut down. Ejima was sentenced to death, but received a pardon. Ando was pardoned in 1722. Upon returning to Edo, he continued painting (as he had while in exile) and also took up designing illustrations and contributing hokku (opening verses in linked poems: 發句) for haikai (31-syllable poem: 俳諧) anthologies under the literary names Kaigetsudô Jôsen and Kaigetsudô Shisui.
There is a consistency in drawing and presentation among Ando's paintings and those of his pupils, nearly always featuring a single courtesan placed before a neutral background. There is typically a pronounced curve to the standing or walking figures, with the central torso jutting out, emphasized by the large obi (kimono sash: 帯) tied in front. The women are invariably adorned in fine kimono, often of a remarkable inventiveness in design, which are rendered with bold, sweeping lines and strong colors. The faces are stylized and almost mask-like in their aloofness, restrained expression, and simplicity. These are not actual portraits, but faces drawn to conform with a typology used by all artists of the Kaigetsudô ("Embrace the moon studio": 壊月堂).
The painting on the left by Ando is a kakemono-e (1,080 x 470 mm) from c. 1704-1714 with ink and colors on paper, depicting a courtesan dressed in a kimono whose furisode (long or "swinging" sleeves: 振袖) and lower hem are decorated with monkeys climbing about in a tree. Such fanciful adorments are often found in the works of the Kaigetsudô artists. The curve of her form and the long, sweeping, thick lines of the robes are typical of Ando's style. Note that she has lifted her robes in front to aid in walking, a very common gesture found in the works of the Kaigetsudô.
The vast majority of extant Kaigetsudô paintings were made with inexpensive pigments on paper (rather than silk). Thus, while a great many other ukiyo-e paintings were expensive commissions from wealthy connoisseurs, many of the Kaigetsudô works might have been sold as souvenirs of visits to the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter, which from 1656 was located just north of Asakusa (where Ando lived). This conjecture seems to gain support from the signatures used by Ando and his five direct followers, who typically prefixed their names with the characters for Nihon giga ("Japanese painting for fun": 日本戯畫 or 日本戯画 with "Nihon" possibly read as "Yamato"). Moreover, there is a contemporary (c. 1701-11) painted handscroll (281 x 4,647 mm) offering some corroboration of the inexpensive, even "lowly" nature of Kaigetsudô productions. In the Asakusa fûzoku zukan (Illustrated genre scenes of Asakusa: 浅草風俗圖巻), now in the National Museum of Japanese History, Sakura, there is a scene depicting a painter set up in a nondescript booth in front of the Asakusa temple gate. Passersby are shown observing him painting a monochrome landscape, but they can also see that two strongly colored kakemono-e in the Kaigetsudô style displayed on the wall.
The work by Ando shown below is a rarity among Kaigetsudô paintings, a horizontal rather than vertical format composition, painted on silk instead of paper. Moreover, it portrays two seated figures instead of the nearly ubiquitous upright solo Kaigetsudô beauty. Ando's handling of the forms and colors is masterful, and the relaxed pose of the courtesan is complemented by delicate line work and sophisticated colors throughout the elegant robes.
Ando's pupils worked in a manner barely distinguishable from his style. Besides using the aforementioned signature prefix Nihon giga, they also inserted matsuyô into their signatures ("end leaf": 末葉), which can be taken to mean "follower." Three of them (Anchi, Dohan, and Doshin) designed prints as well as paintings; two others (Doshu and Doshû) produced only paintings. Dating any of the Kaigetsudô works is problematic, as no definitive assessment has so far been achieved.
Kaigetsudô Anchi (壊月堂安知 also read "Yasutomo") was the only follower to use a character from Ando's art name (An, 安). Moreover, he was apparently the only one to establish a studio, which he named the "Chôyôdô" (長陽堂). Anchi is considered by many to be the most accomplished of the pupils, known for about 20 or more paintings, although his printed numbere as few as six or seven. The painting shown below on the left depicts a courtesan seated on a bench reading a manuscript (possibly a love letter). The outer robe decorated with calligraphy pattern called hogo-zome ("scratched-pad design," or "calligraphy scrap paper": 反故染), made with a calligraphic textile-dyeing pattern going back at least as far as the Heian period (794-1184), which was especially popular during the Edo period. The name of the dyeing technique/pattern came from words meaning "against the old dyeing," that is, a design made to look like a kimono worn by a destitute man made from reused writing paper. There are many examples in ukiyo-e paintings and prints of women and actors wearing robes with inscription patterns. Anchi's painting is signed Nihon giga Kaigetsu matsuyô Anchi zu (日本戯画 懐月末葉安知圖).
The hand-colored tan-e below on the right, published by Maru-ya Jinpachi (丸屋甚八 Marujin 丸甚, Enjudô 円寿堂) circa mid-1710s, is also a design featuring a hogo-zome or a dyed calligraphy pattern on the robes, with the lettering presumably related to one of Japan's great poets of the Heian period, who is pictured on the lower inside hem of the outer robe. Here, again, we see the long sweeping lines for the robes, although the bold coloration found in paintings is somewhat subdued in this tan-e (red-lead print: 丹絵), partly a result of the printed black sumi (carbon black pigment: 墨 or 墨) covering so much of the robes (the purple and yellow colors are also faded in this specimen). The print is signed Nihon giga Kaigetsu matsuyô Anchi zu (日本戯画 懐月末葉安知圖).
Kaigetsudô Dohan (懐月堂度繁 also read "Norishige") was one of Ando's three pupils who designed prints as well as paintings. Nothing is known about his personal life, but his surviving works number at least 12 prints (all but one published by Iga-ya, 伊賀屋) and 11 paintings, seemingly from the mid-1710s. He has been criticized as perhaps the least inspired of the Kaigetsudô artists, although several of his works match up well with those by other pupils. The kakemono-e (hanging scroll painting: 掛物絵) shown below on the left portrays one of the stately courtesans who served as the primary focus for the Kaigetsudô artists. Here she is affixing a bekkô-gushi (tortoise-shell comb: 鼈甲櫛) to her "Katsuyama" (勝山) coiffure. The hairstyle, which is so often encountered in Kaigetsudô paintings and prints, was associated with prostitutes and is said to have been created by a high-ranking prostitute or oiran (花魁) in Katsuyama (about 300 km west of Edo). As previously mentioned, the kimono were of prime importance in these designs. Regardless of season, the highest-ranking courtesans wore two layers of nagajuban (long undergarments: 長襦袢) underneath three layers of kosode (small sleeve: 小袖) kimono plus three layers of long outer garments. The women's skills in layering kimono and combining decorative patterns was on full display in the works of the Kaigetsudô artists. In Dohan's painting there is, arguably, a certain directional rigidity to the lines and shapes, particularly in the reliance on repetitive diagonals. The motif on the green sleeve is the yûgao ("evening faces: 夕颜), a flower that blooms as evening comes but withers by dawn. In classical and premodern poetry and literature, its short-lived blossoms came to symbolize the impermanence of life and futility of worldly cares. Essentially, the main focus of Dohan's print was the display of luxurious kimono, worthy of only the highest-ranking courtesans. The print is signed Nihon giga Kaigetsu Matsuyô Dohan zu (日本戯画 懐月末葉度繁). Dohan also designed a large print depicting a courtesan in a similar fashion (see Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, acc #21.6645).
Seated female figures were among the rarities in Kaigetsudô paintings and prints. The large ôban (ô-ôban, 555 x 288 mm) hand-colored print shown below on the right, published by Motohama-chô Iga-ya hanmoto (元濱町伊賀屋板本) circa mid-1710s, is among the best examples. Dohan depicted a courtesan seated on a large box while dangling a towel with a shibori (shaped-resist or tie-dyed: 絞り) pattern as she plays with her pet kitten. The side of the box seen below the beauty's leg is decorated with a partly visible figure of a monkey, and a label on the left side reads: Onkashi dokoro, Asakusa Komagata-chô Masaru-ya (House of Masaru, seller of confections in Komagata Street, Asakusa). The print, in effect, serves as an advertisement for a local vendor who probably commissioned or subsidized the woodblock edition. The print is signed Nihon giga Kaigetsu matsuyô Dohan zu (日本戯画 懐月末葉度繁圖).
Kaigetsudô Doshin (懐月堂度辰 also read as "Noritake" or "Noritatsu") was another Ando pupil who produced both paintings and prints, although surviving works are very few. So far, only three prints are known with his signature. It has been proposed that his style, although entirely in the Kaigetsudô tradition, is somewhat more amiable in expression, rendered with refinement and fuller forms. The image below on the left is a kakemono-e painted on paper in large format (1,114 x 497 mm). The outer robe has a pattern of yûgao (lit., "evening face," the so-called "moon flower": 夕颜), a flower with millennium of literary and poetic symbolism in Japan, including the Yûgao chapter in the Genji monogatari (Tale of Genji: 源氏物語). It also appears in family crests, where it is frequently combined with images of the moon. Yûgao is a white flower that blooms as evening comes but withers by dawn. It is thus a symbol of life's impermanence and the brevity of physical beauty possessed by the courtesans portrayed in this and other works by the Kaigetsudô artists.
In the image below right, Doshin's strolling beauty has tucked her hands inside the kimono, which is decorated with a pattern of falcon feathers and tasseled rope. The artist's large seal (Doshin, 度辰) is placed below the signature, which reads Nihon giga Kaigetsu matsuyô Doshin zu (日本戯画 懐月末葉度辰図). As is nearly always the case, the large ô-ôban was printed on two sheets of paper (here the join is visible horizontally running through the signature). The work was published by Nakaya (his seal reads Nakaya Tôriabura-chō hanmoto: 板元通油町中屋). In viewing a print such as Doshin's, one is perhaps reminded of a comment by Richard Lane, who once wrote that the "powerful yet pensive figure of a lone courtesan ... [of the Kaigetsudô] has come to symbolize the living image of old Japan."
The two remaining direct pupils of Kaigetsudô Ando produced paintings but no woodblock prints. As few as six works survive by Kaigetsudô Doshu (懐月堂度種 also read as Noritane or Nobutane), including the kakemono-e shown below on the left. She turns back to look over her shoulder at something (or someone) that has caught her attention as she strolls in the Yoshiwara. She lifts the front of her robes to facilitate walking while adorned by the many layers of robes. Her elegant outer robe is decorated with orange blossoms trailing over a fence.
Kaigetsudô Doshû (懐月堂度秀 also read as Norihide or Nobuhide) is known by a mere three paintings. One of these, a somewhat trimmed but large kakemono-e shown below on the right, portrays a courtesan adjusting her hairpin. Once again, strongly colored and boldly patterned robes are a focus of a Kaigetsudô composition, so much so that despite the toning and abrasion of the paper, the painting retains a vibrancy that communicates much of Donshû's original work.
Baiôken Eishun (梅翁軒永春 also read as Baiôken Nagaharu, act. c. 1710–1755) was one of the ukiyo-e artists specializing in paintings of courtesans drawn in a manner similar yo the Kaigetsudô style. Eishun used other art names, including Hasegawa Eishun (長谷川永春), and Takeda Harunobu (竹田春信), along with the pseudonym Shôsuiken (松翠軒). He produced paintings for hanging scrolls and designs for illustrations in woodblock-printed books. Eishun, along with Matsuno Chikanobu (see below), has long been considered part of a minor revival of the Kaigetsudô school after it fell into decline following the exile of its founder Kaigetsudô Ando in 1714. However, recent research suggests that while influenced by the Kaigetsudô, Eishun and Chikanobu, along with such artists as Baiyuken Katsunobu (梅祐軒勝信) and Nishikawa Terunobu (西川照信) — see below — were independent painters who, in fact, might have been seen as competitors of the Kaigetsudô. The poem reads: "Though I didn’t say / I was retiring for the night / still she loosens her sash./ She reads my thoughts, / bringing tears to my eyes." [trans. by Miyeko Murase]
Matsuno Chikanobu (松野親信, act. 1720s-30s?), who also used the pseudonym "Hakushôken" (伯照軒), was possibly one of the most popular painters of his time and remains highly regarded today. It is said that he might have worked closely with Baiôken Eishun (see above). He adopted the Kaigetsudô style, portraying courtesans dressed in brightly colored and exquisitely designed kimono. Unlike the Kaigetsudô artists, however, Chikanobu used high-quality pigments and silk for his paintings. His figures tended to have sweetly smiling faces with small upturned mouths, and they wore robes with rhythmically modulated outlines. In the painting shown below on the right, the courtesan, probably on parade along the wide boulevard called Naka-no-chô (中の町) that bisected the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter, wears a spectacular kimono decorated with snow-capped bamboo.
Tôsendô Rifû (東川堂里風 act. c. 1720-30) is also counted among the later artists associated with the Kaigetsudô style of courtesan portraiture. Tôsendô's style, although compatible with the Kaigetsudô, also shows some influence of Hishikawa Moronobu, and particular works seem to adapt the manner of Matsuno Chikanobu (see above). In the kakemono-e shown below on the left, a courtesan is seated on a bench while cooling herself with a uchiwa (rigid fan: 團扇 or 団扇). She wears a light-weight summer kimono patterned with Genji-guruma (wagon or ox-cart wheels: 源氏車), a familiar motif in painting, woodblock print, and family-crest designs (the latter were popular from the latter half of the Heian period).
Takizawa Shigenobu (滝沢重信 active c. 1720–40) also used the pseudonym "Ryûkadô" (柳花堂). He is known by at least nine paintings. The example shown below on the right depicts a delicate young woman walking on a veranda in a garden. There is a notable sweetness to the courtesan's demeanor and fragility to her form quite unlike the imposing Kaigetsudô beauty, despite the influence evident from that school of artists. Her impossibly tiny hands and feet prefigure some of the waif-like anatomies found in Nishikawa Sukenobu's works. In fact, it may be that Sukenobu exerted some influence on Takizawa Shigenobu and a few other late artists of the Kaigetsudô school.
Baiyuken Katsunobu (梅祐軒勝信) is known by a dozen or so paintings of courtesans from the 1710s whose style was influenced by the Kaigetsudô. A seal reading Shin or Kami (deity: 神) appears on at least one of his works. Katsunobu might have been associated with the artists Matsuno Chikanobu and Baiôken Eishun (see above). Here, below left, a courtesan is about to place an ornamental tortoise-shell comb in her hair. As with the Kaigetsudô Anchi works discussed earlier, she wears a kimono with a hogo-zome ("calligraphy scrap paper": 反故染) design. Her figure is slimmer and more elongated than the typical Kaigetsudô beauty.
Nishikawa Terunobu (西川照信), another artist influenced by the Kaigetsudô, not only painted beauties but also actors. He also produced designs for ehon (woodblock printed illustrated books: 絵本). Some of his works also present slender figures that veer away from the typical Kaigetsudô model, as in the example shown at the lower right. Here, an onnagata (performer of female kabuki roles: 女方 or 女形) wears the murasaki-bôshi (purple cap: 紫帽子), the purple silk headcloth used by onnagata to cover the shaved forelock, seen both during kabuki performances and off-stage on formal occasions. The face of the unidentified actor is drawn in a manner more closely resembling an actual portrait than any of the previous facial typologies shown on this web page. Although the deportment of the onnagata is feminine enough to be convincing on stage, the features of the face are certainly masculine, especially the strong jaw. The bold horizontal stripes decorating one of his inner kimono also suggest a male figure. The signature reads Yamato eishi Nishikawa Gyokuuken Terunobu kore zu and is sealed Terunobu (照信). © 2020 by John Fiorillo