Saturday in the Museum with Suzuki

Image: Suzuki Harunobu, Osode of the Sakaiya Teahouse (c. 1769)

Our weekend highlight of a piece of art takes us to 18th century Japan by way of Honolulu.  With the announced re-opening to full capacity at the end of next week for restaurants in Washington, D.C., we highlight the service industry.  With the corresponding discussion of workforce shortages, this piece that suggests the poise necessary to deal with the constant nagging is not something new for servers and others who work in restaurants.  They have been underpaid for centuries apparently.

The artist, Suzuki Harunobu, was a master of the woodblock print. He developed a method to apply multiple layers and multiple colors beyond the traditional two or three, sometimes using up to ten colors.  Harunobu produced works portraying a range of topics.  One of his most famous topics was those who worked in urban Edo, often quoting classical literature matched to work of daily life.

One of his preferred subjects was the women who worked in the tea houses of Japan.  The beauty of these women made specific tea houses destinations, and Harunobu may be reflecting his own infatuation in the paintings.  This picture shows one such server at the Sakaiya teahouse.  Sakaiya was located on the grounds of Sensōji, the Buddhist temple from which the Asakusa district of Edo takes its name.  Though in this picture she merely has to deal with a troublesome dog, other paintings show customers who were more difficult and disturbing.

This piece is in the Honolulu Museum of Art.  The site says of the subject:

“Osode was one of the most renowned beauties of the Meiwa era (1764-1772). While she is not identified by name in the print, she was the main attraction of the Sakaiya, and audiences at the time would immediately have recognized her from the teahouse with which she was associated.”

So as we re-open for full business, please keep those who are in the service industry in mind.  Be patient and considerate.  They must deal with ankle biters all day long, do not add to that toll.


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