This site requires that you enable Javascript to function properly The Beauty and Her Realm | Japanese Art | woodblock prints | Keisai Eisen | bijin
Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
The Beauty and Her Realm
December 1, 2000 to February 28, 2001

Eisen print Following the impressive inaugural exhibition of Scholten Japanese Art this past September; the elegant new gallery of Japanese works of art is pleased to announce their winter exhibition entitled The Beauty and her Realm. The exhibition is inspired by a complete collection of woodblock prints by Keisai Eisen depicting the bijin or Japanese beauty. The accompanying works of art are associated with the daily life of the Japanese beauty, or courtesan.

The nineteenth century Japanese courtesan lived and worked in the Yoshiwara district of Edo. The Yoshiwara pleasure quarter was an irresistibly exciting place as it was a skillful purveyor of romance and a manufacturer of dreams. Under the influence of the Yoshiwara are the multicolored ukiyo-e (literally, "floating world") prints portraying the bijin. The "Amused type" courtesan from the "Twelve Views of Modern Beauties" by Keisai Eisen illustrates a bust portrait of a bijin gesturing with her hands, with a plectrum for a samisen (musical instrument) tucked under her arm. The samisen was well suited to the accompaniment of popular songs and the creation of lyrical and romantic moods. Thus, many courtesans were adept players and could play and sing for their clients.

To the ordinary citizens of Edo, the courtesans of the Yoshiwara were unattainable treasures. Not only were they tremendously beautiful and expensive, but they surrounded themselves with similar dazzling objects. As the courtesan prided herself on her grace and simple beauty, tied in a hyogo knot, she adorned her hair with a lacquer hairpin and comb. The elaborate lacquer bento box (picnic box) might have accompanied the courtesan and her client on an afternoon outing to view the cherry blossoms in late spring. The fumibako (letter container) in which she would have kept her love letters for safe keeping, and the tebako (cosmetic container) where she stored her powder and rouge are examples of the magnificent works of art on display at Scholten Japanese Art.

The clientele of the Yoshiwara consisted of mainly daimyo (warlords) and a large contingent of rich merchants and prosperous farmers. Included within the exhibition are a variety of sagemono (hanging objects), which would have belonged to the courtesan's patron. The rare ivory inro (stacked boxes) decorated with a red lacquer crayfish, worn suspended from his waist sash, was used to his hold powders and medicines. The various images seen on the assortment of inro on exhibit convey the style and tastes of the individual wearer.

The winter exhibition opens December 1, 2000 and continues until February 28, 2001. Scholten Japanese Art is open Tuesday through Saturday 11am to 5pm, by appointment. To schedule an appointment please call 212.585.0474.

Photographs are available