The Four Accomplishments

Artist: Utagawa Toyohiro 歌川豊広 (1773-1828)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 19th century
Color and gold on silk
H x W (image): 101.7 x 41.5 cm (40 1/16 x 16 5/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), go, Japan, kakemono, koto, music, qin, the four accomplishments, ukiyo-e
Provenance research underway.

The Four Accomplishments-arts to be mastered by an ideal Chinese scholar-were playing the musical instrument qin, the board game weiqi, calligraphy, and painting. This ideal was adopted in Japan and slightly modified to include koto, a type of zither played by plucking (shown at the far right), and the Japanese board game go (replaced here by sugoroku, a game similar to backgammon). Instead of scholarly gentlemen practicing the Four Accomplishments, however, these paintings show Japanese courtesans in the urban "floating world" of pleasure and entertainment. While geisha and high-class courtesans often possessed great artistic skills, their appearance in conjunction with these scholarly Chinese pursuits creates an unexpected joining of disparate themes and social contexts. This form of artistic play on the unexpected, known as mitate, was popular in literature and visual art during the Edo period (1615-1868).

Published References
  • Harold P. Stern. Ukiyo-e Painting: Freer Gallery of Art Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition. Exh. cat. Washington and Baltimore, 1973. cat. 77, pp. 208-209.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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