Suzuki Harunobu (鈴木春信) (artist 1724 – 1770)
Osen of the Kagiya teahouse playing with a kitten
4.5 in x 26.5 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese woodblock print
Osen of the Kagiya must have been a great beauty. Not only was she portrayed in numerous prints by Harunobu, but also in prints by others such as Shigemasa and Bunchō. She was written about by two famous authors and even made a character in one puppet play.
Her family name was Kagiya Gohei (鍵屋五衛). She was called the "extraordinary tea-kettle" (tonda chagama - とんだ茶釜).
We know the name, Kurachi Mitsufusa Masanosuke, and background of the samurai she married. We know where they lived and the family that they raised. We also know that "Osen survived her husband by many years, not dying until the 29th day, 1st month, 1827." There is more information and art created around this woman than that of almost any other single contemporary of hers. No wonder Harunobu chose to portray her so often. She was one of his muses.
This print is listed as #580 in the Waterhouse catalogue of Harunobu prints at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It is illustrated in color in volume 2 with the text in volume 1 on page 320.
Waterhouse notes that "...a sign above her stall reads Kagiya: Oyasumi-dokoro..."
Timon Screech wrote in reference to another Harunobu print featuring Osen with a young customer who appears to be a samurai: "There was a young lady or young girl of Edo, named Osen お仙 (1751-1827), who ran a tea shop near a Shinto shrine called Kasamori. She became famous for her beauty. People would go there not to visit the shrine, not to have a cup of tea, but to chart her up."