Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), late 17th century
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on paper
Gift of David J. Williams in Memory of
Mr. and Mrs. Shigeru Kinoshita, Tokyo, Japan, 1992
Sumptuary laws promulgated by the shogunate banned the public display of brightly-colored textiles and other signifiers of material wealth. One of the few places where this ban was not enforced was the Yoshiwara district. Courtesans of all levels of status, therefore, proudly displayed their finest ensembles, and the pleasure quarter soon became as popular a venue for learning about new fashion trends and appraising various textile designs as it was for indulging in sexual recreation.
Works of nikuhitsu (painted) ukiyo-e such as this hanging scroll documented the visual splendors of the Yoshiwara. A courtesan, her hair arranged in a hyōgo-wage style that supposedly originated from the Hyōgoya Brothel in the Yoshiwara, dances with a folding paper fan. To accentuate the sensuality of the image, a previous owner of the hanging scroll remounted it using fabric often used for under-kimono.
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