Past Exhibitions

Edo Period Idols
July 20, 2016 - August 21, 2016

Portraiture has a long history in Japan, but most early portraits of women depict religious or literary figures. Solo portraits of women outside these categories did not appear until the early Edo period (1616–1868). From the Momoyama period (1573–1615) through the beginning of Edo, artists began painting groups of contemporary women, usually in the pleasure quarters. This formed the basis for the development of the single “beauty painting” genre—the “idols” of Edo period Japan. These depictions of women vary: some are anonymous images of idealized beauties; others portray actual figures; still others playfully combine historical imagery with contemporary models. Though these paintings of women were produced primarily for male connoisseurship, they are not necessarily devoid of religious or literary content. Indeed, evocative associations might enhance the interest of such paintings for their Edo period viewers.

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