"Fabulous, Fashionable Women" Art Exhibit
February 24, 2020 - March 22, 2020
10:00am - 4:30pm
Utagawa Kunisada / Toyokuni III (1786–1865) Survey of Styles of Contemporary Beauties (Tōsei bijin fūryū asobi) Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 1852 Woodblock print; ink and color on paper Gift of Mrs. Sibyl Kidder Paris, 1993 (25289) During the Edo period (1615–1868) in Japan, the Tokugawa shogunate occasionally forbade citizens from wearing brightly colored or elaborately decorated clothing for fear that such artistic expression would disturb public order. Since the police did not patrol the Yoshiwara brothel district on the outskirts of Edo (now Tokyo), however, fashion connoisseurs gathered there to show off and admire sumptuous outfits. In this way, the Yoshiwara came to be celebrated as a venue for artistic expression. This rotation focuses upon woodblock prints whose titles include the term fūryū, meaning “fashion” or “elegance.” Although some of the women depicted in the prints have their obi sashes tied in front, signifying them as prostitutes, others are either renowned authors of classical literature or characters from works such as the Heian-period Tale of Genji or the Tales of Ise. By dressing all of them in contemporary clothing, the artists erased the indicators of each figure’s social status, thereby essentially elevating the women of the Yoshiwara to the level of tenth-century court ladies.