The surimono woodblock print “Jurojin, geisha, and child” painted by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), dates back to the early Japanese Edo period. Hokusai was a renowned ukiyo-e artist who transitioned from traditional courtesan paintings to his infamous landscape paintings (3). Ukiyo-e translates to “pictures of the floating world” usually referring to the pleasure districts of the Edo period (4). The paintings
focus on enjoying earthly pleasures, hence the common lustful display of courtesans. As seen in the print a geisha is tending to the god Jurojin while a child tugs at her garments. Jurojin is one of the seven gods of luck and seen as a symbol of longevity (5). By offering her breast to Jurojin, she puts a higher preference towards fulfilling his pleasure than the needs of the child. His tugging is ignored as the geisha moves closer toward Jurojin. Katsushika’s use of motion portrays the geisha and Jurojin clear movement toward one another, thus excluding the child from their union. Respecting the god of longevity depicts the positive virtue of honoring divinity. The geishas hands being abnormally small coupled with the fine lines used to paint her breast add to her poise and delicate figure. Seeing the bare breast of a women arises feelings of
arousal in the viewer making the geisha more alluring. In comparison to the old man with an enlarged head and a clingy child, the geisha can be considered the most attractive figure in the print. Both Jurojin and the child are physically smaller than the geisha making her stature much more prominent. Katsushika’s portrayal of the geisha invokes lustful feelings at first. Further analysis of the print allows the viewer to acknowledge the power she hold over both the god and the child. Jurojin wants to suckle at her breast while the child wants her attention, thus the geisha is being desired by both figures in the print. Most importantly her beauty and presence attract the viewer to keep focusing on her.
(3) “Biography of Katsushika Hokusai,” http://www.katsushikahokusai.org/biography.html, (2017).
(4) Rebecca Seiferle, Summary of Ukiyo-e Japanese Prints (The Art Story, 2018), https://www.theartstory.org/movement/ukiyo-e-japanese-woodblock-prints/.
(5) Mark Schumacher, Jurojin God of Wisdom and Longevity (onmarkproductions, 2013), https://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/jurojin.shtml