Object Image

A Girl Writing a Letter

The seated young woman has been writing what is probably a love letter, but she attempts to hide it from the man who has just entered. The painting on the sliding screen behind the figures provides Harunobu with the opportunity to elaborate on the theme of letter writing by alluding to a classical episode from ancient Chinese history. Su Wu (J.: Sobu), a Chinese general of the Han period (206 B.C.–A.D. 220), was captured by invading forces and held captive for nineteen years in Central Asia. He was ultimately rescued by his people, who had received Su Wu's messages by geese, which functioned like carrier pigeons in Asia. By invoking the plight of Su Wu, Harunobu's print suggests that the presen ...
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18th century
Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Image and text © Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019

Where you'll find this

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Permanent collection