Five musicians (taiko, kotsuzumi and shamisen)


Hand coloured albumen print
(Not attributed)
Circa 1880

D. 22 x 28,5 cm or 5/8 x 11 3/8 in

Video presentation


This photograph is a very beautiful composition taken in a studio titled in the negative.

The five women are harmoniously seated in seiza 正座 position, the “meditation position”, each playing a musical instrument. The setting is the interior of a house and in the background there is a ruan, a mandolin also known as a “moon guitar”.

From the left the first instrument is a taiko 太鼓, a traditional Japanese drum, which comes in all sizes. The second two instruments are kotsuzumi 小鼓, small drums that are mainly played on one shoulder. Finally the last two instruments are shamisen 三味線 literally meaning “three fragrant strings”. They are plucked strings instrument and have a square-shaped sound box.

Learning to play the shamisen is an integral part of the education of the Geisha 芸者. It is always played in a seated position, except for street musicians, and has become a distinguishing feature of the Geisha, who often mix it with singing.

Condition report:

Good condition despite very slight tears on the upper edge of the photograph and faded albumen.