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mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

Beauty By the Lantern


Beauty By the Lantern - Kusinada

38cm x 25cm
British Museum, London, United Kingdom
© RMN / The Trustees of the British Museum

View this work in the exhibition Fire

The work

Although Kusinada is primarily known for his portraits of actors, he also painted a number of portraits of female beauties, a classic theme in Japanese woodblock printing. Here a young courtesan is caught at home, dressed in a simple indoor kimono. The two teacups, the clothes hanging over the screen and the accessories dropped on the floor suggest that a client may be present but out of sight.

The artist

Kusinada was born in the then Edo, now known as Tokyo, in 1786. Gifted at drawing, he was quickly taken on at the workshop of a woodblock printer. Woodblock art emerged in the 17th century and was at its peak at the time. Skillful at continually adapting to the public's expectations, Kusinada soon became a huge success, like his contemporary Hokusai. Of the 20,000 woodblock prints he created before his death in 1864, his portraits of theater actors are among the best known. Kusinada also illustrated books and erotic literature. Long considered a secondary painter by collectors, he is admired today as one of the great masters of Japanese woodblock printing.