Two Beauties at the Tamagawa (Crystal River) in Mishima
Two Beauties at the Tamagawa (Crystal River) in Mishima
Two Beauties at the Tamagawa (Crystal River) in Mishima
Two Beauties at the Tamagawa (Crystal River) in Mishima

Two Beauties at the Tamagawa (Crystal River) in Mishima

Kubo Shunman (Japanese, 1757-1820)

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三島の玉川美人図, from 六玉川

Minamoto Shunrai (1055–1129) linked fulling (cleaning and thickening) cloth to the Tamagawa (Crystal River) in Mishima in his poem:

The sound of the Autumn winds blowing through the pines / adding to the loneliness / the pounding of fulling cloth at Tamagawa.

Shunrai echoed an 8th-century Chinese poem by Li Bo, Autumn, which describes lonely wives fulling cloth long into the night while their soldier husbands are away guarding the frontier. The delicate faces, elegant poses, and intricate kimono patterns indicate that the beautiful women—more than the poem—are the main subject here.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

In this painting, two women are fulling, that is, softening newly woven cloth by pounding and rinsing it. One holds a wooden mallet in her hand, while the other dips the fabric in a stream. The painting is one of a group depicting the popular motif of six famous rivers, all called Crystal River—Tamagawa—but differentiated by their location in six Japanese prefectures.

The painting relates to a poem by Minamoto Shunrai, titled “Crystal River at Kinuta,” which in turn refers to an earlier poem, “Autumn,” by the Tang-dynasty poet Li Bo. Li describes the sounds of women fulling cloth long into the night, as they await the return of their husbands from battling the Tartars in the north.

Though the artist and his clients knew this poem, Shunman's primary interest is the depiction of beautiful women, and his paintings of the courtesans from the pleasure quarters of the capital city of Edo were extremely popular. His delicacy of line, intricacy of pattern, and sinuous elegance of form invoke ethereal beauty, steadfast against time.

A moon rises over Ch'ang-an,
From ten thousand doors comes the sound of pounding cloth.
The autumn wind blows sadly. . . .

—Li Bo, from “Autumn,” 8th century

Purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2000.

Object Information

artist
Kubo Shunman (Japanese, 1757-1820)
period
Edo
creation date
1787
materials
ink, gofun, and color on silk
dimensions
33 x 11-3/4 in. (image)
66-3/4 x 18-1/4 in. (overall)
mark descriptions
Signed: Kubo Shunman ga
Large, circular relief seal below signature: Shunman
series
Six Views of Tamagawa
accession number
2000.58
credit line
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Crane Fund
copyright
Public Domain
collection
Asian Art
colors

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