Heian Court Performer

Color on silk
Hanging scroll
Signed Hokusai Taito aratame Iitsu, sealed Katsushika

This drawing depicts a twelfth century shirabyoshi dancer.
The dignified stance of the beautiful woman in a white robe, red pleated skirt, tall hat, and decorative sword gives a rather masculine image. The dance was set in Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura where Minamoto Yoritomo and his wife watched Yoshitsune's lover perform after she was forced to end her relationship.
This piece traveled through Europe via France and Switzerland in the Meiji era (1868-1912) and was finally handed to the Hokusai Museum in 1986.
It was during Hokusai's Iitsu period, sometime between his sixties and early seventies, that he produced this painting featuring his brilliant technique of manipulating loose ink. The work is often referred as almost divine.

*Click image for a further enlargement of this work.