Wisteria Maiden

Unidentified artist, Fuji Musume (Wisteria Maiden), no date [ca. 1800s]. Ink and color on paper, pasted on modern scroll. Ōtsu-e.
Graphic Arts Collection GAX2013- in process.

A recent move uncovered this Japanese folk painting, named for Ōtsu, the capital city of Shiga Prefecture, Japan, where this genre of painting originated. The designs were accomplished by anonymous artists and become extremely popular with merchants and tourists traveling between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto along the Old Tokaido Road. In other cultures, the paintings might be called outsider art or naive art. In Japan, they are called Ōtsu-e.

The paintings fall into several standard categories include beautiful women, warriors, ogres, and Buddhas and other religious icons. The graphic arts collection holds several Ōtsu-e, including this traditional Fuji Musume (Wisteria Maiden) possibly from the Edo period (1615-1868).

Our colleagues at the British Museum note, “The ‘Wisteria Maiden … was one of the stock subjects of folk painters in Ōtsu since the seventeenth century. It enjoyed a new vogue in the nineteenth century after the theme was adapted in 1826 for the Kabuki stage, as a dance sequence in which the young woman came alive out of an Ōtsu painting.”