Chikanobu Yoshu, Ladies Enjoying Noh Theatre, Tokugawa Era

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Artist: Chikanobu Yoshu (1838–1912)
Title: Ladies Enjoying the Theatre
Series title: High-ranking Ladies of the Tokugawa Era
Publisher: Hasegawa Tsunejiro
Date: c.1895
Size: (CR) 35.9 c 23.9 (R)36.3 x 25 (R2) 35.8 x 25 (L2)36.2 x 23.9 (L) 35.9 x 23.8 (CL) 36 x 23.9 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

In woodblock prints depicting Court Ladies, Chikanobu focuses on the day to day activities of the women who resided in the shogun's palace. The women lived leisurely lives representing the height of elegance and beauty evident in their finely detailed and brightly coloured kimono and youthful faces. Their fashion varied throughout the ages and consisted of wearing white make-up and styling their hair. These ladies-in-waiting were expected to be well educated in traditional arts and carry out refined activities such as writing poetry, tea ceremony and attending theatre plays.

This 6-panel print shows court ladies attending a Noh theatre play and offers a wide view of the setting. Evolving under shogunate patronage from the 14th century, Noh theatre became an exclusive samurai pastime. In the Tokugawa period (1603 – 1868), commoners were forbidden to see it. Performed by male actors wearing masks, Noh dramas fall into five categories, plays about gods, women, insanity, revenge and demons.

Performed against a painted backdrop of a pine tree and with minimal props, Noh features lavish silk brocade costumes and exquisitely fashioned wooden masks. The masks are designed and crafted with great subtlety. They can appear to dramatically transform simply from the alterations of light and shadow as the actors move their heads. The pace is hypnotically slow, but the movement delivers great dramatic power.

More Information
Print Format Other
Artist Name Chikanobu Yoshu
Title Ladies Enjoying the Theatre
Subject Beauty & Female, Male & Female, Kimono Design
Dimensions (CR) 35.9 c 23.9 (R)36.3 x 25 (R2) 35.8 x 25 (L2)36.2 x 23.9 (L) 35.9 x 23.8 (CL) 36 x 23.9 cm
Condition Report Slight discolouration, light wear and soiling, some watermarks.