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Style and function of female images in prints by Keisai Eisen (1790–1848) ideals of beauty and gender in the Late Edo Period consumer society

On the 15th of July Sawako Takemura successfully defended a doctoral thesis and graduated.

Takemura, S.
15 July 2021
Leiden Repository

This PhD thesis studies the emergence of a new type of female image in ukiyo-e in the early to mid-nineteenth century (late Edo period), with a focus on the bijin-ga, or “pictures of beauties,” designed by Keisai Eisen (1791–1848). Compared to many bijin-ga produced before his time, Eisen’s bijin-ga express a more sensuous, sexually-charged ethos and a sense of self-resilience in the portrayal of female subjects. My study contextualizes the new images of women within the socio-historical milieu of this era.In the context of gender studies, my investigation also explore the social function of Eisen’s bijin-ga. Commercial media such as ukiyo-e seemingly contribute to the general discourse on female gender roles in its bijin-ga depictions of women. In other words, Eisen’s bijin-ga images of women play in the creation of a new feminine ideal in the late Edo period. I also explore in what ways was this expressed in the bijin-ga of Eisen and his circle of artists, writers, and publishers of the demimonde that formed the vortex of commoner society and culture of the late Edo.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. Ivo Smits; co-supervisor dr. Ewa Machotka

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