Kunisada, Woman Dressed as a Shirabyoshi Dancer

Utagawa Kunisada(1786-1865) Woman Dressed as a Shirabyoshi Dancer, 1830’s. Oban vertical diptych (kakemono-e).

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These kakemono-e or vertical diptychs are fairly unusual. The format originally was designed to fit narrow alcoves in household shrines but one imagines that the form was adapted in the more decadent Edo period because it enabled artists to draw out the elaborate costumes of female models, dancers and courtesans.

The print is from a series, and represents a fashionable woman dressed in abundantly decorated floral cloaks. Behind her are blossoming trees and the whole effect is a sort of magical cornucopia… a Japanese Flora… somewhat reminiscent of Botticelli’s Primavera.

There were several famed Shirabyoshi Dancers who were pictured by ukiyo-e artists... this could be an evocation of Hotoke Gozen for example; but more likely the piece is a decorative design of great delicacy and beauty referencing the dancers and spring time. Shirabyoshi were female entertainers in the Heian and Kamakura periods who sang songs and performed dances. They danced dressed as men. The word shirabyoshi can also refer to the songs they sang and the dances they performed. The profession of shirabyoshi became popular in the 12th century. A YouTube clip shows the dancer performing. 

This is a very beautiful print. Colour and impression are very good, condition is excellent with no losses. The print is unbacked.

24 x 70 cm.