Hana Moyō (Patterns for Flowers), by Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), is a series of triptychs published in 1896, each one of which features a beautiful woman from a specific historical era set against a distant background scene. The way the figure in the foreground is shown close-up in contrast to the smaller figures depicted in the background of each triptych makes this an unusual and striking set of designs. The title refers both to the beauties themselves (the flowers) and the patterns of their beautifully decorated garments. It’s a stunning set and one of my favourites. It’s also very interesting for anyone wanting to compare the modes of dress and arrangement of hair throughout different periods of Japanese history.
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Wheeler MacPherson writes:
The prints in the blog to which you linked are indeed beautiful. At the risk of being nitpicky, though, I do have an observation.
One of the dramatic strengths of your blog is the consistent drawing of attention to the silliness of women trying to be men (and men allowing and encouraging such silliness). I had to smile at the prints in which a Japanese women is wearing the two swords of a samurai. While women were members of the samurai class, they did not wear men’s weapons. Women of the samurai class trained in the use of daggerlike short swords and the naginata, a type of halberd. These weapons were for the lady’s self-defense and for the defense of the home in the absence of her husband or father. The image of a woman wearing the two swords of the warrior elicits the same reaction my mind as would a portrait of a medieval knight in full armor, accompanied by a tutu.
I’m still trying to figure out why the artist would present such a thing.
If you read the entry on these prints, you learn that this is an actress playing a man:
The above design is often described as being a picture of a male actor; the subject is actually a woman. As we are so accustomed to the fact that men play both the male and female roles on the kabuki stage nowadays, and have done since 1629, it may surprise you to learn that kabuki’s creator was in fact a woman. Her name was Okuni and she is the woman depicted here. She is shown dressed as a man, taking part in a performance which took place on the third day of the sixth month of 1606.