Courtesan and Customer at the Ibaraki-ya House
By Suzuki Harunobu
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Medium: woodcut/woodblock/ukiyo-e, woodblock
Edition size: n/a
Sheet size: 28.5 x 20.9 cm
signed Harunobu ga, ca. 1767-68
chuban tate-e 11 1/4 by 8 1/4 in., 28.5 by 20.9 cm
A courtesan stands on the verandah of an establishment identified as the Ibaraki-ya on the noren (split curtain) to her left. She engages a young man by holding the tip of his umbrella suggestively, her other hand is hidden within the sleeve of her kimono which she wraps around the pillar of the porch. He pauses, his body in a forward motion but he turns his head back towards the beauty. The wisp of hair that has come lose from her comb suggest that she is attempting to detain a customer with whom she has already exchanged relations.
The name of the house, Ibaraki-ya, is clear reference to the legend of warrior Watanabe no Tsuna (953-1025) and his encounter with the demoness Ibaraki who was menacing innocents at the Rashomon gateway located at the southern entrance to the city of Kyoto. In the story, Watanabe no Tsuna confronts the demoness on a rainy night, but only manages to cut off her arm which he saves as a prize, locking it away in a chest. Later, Ibaraki disguises herself as his own aunt and manages to talk her way into his home in order to reclaim her arm.