Pictures of Vanity Fair: The Traditional Japanese Print

October 19, 2012 - January 6, 2013

In the early nineteenth century, the Japanese word ukiyo, usually translated as “the floating world,” had many of the same connotations as the English phrase “vanity fair”: a milieu where art, fashion, entertainment, and sexuality flowed together.

In 1800, Japan was a society that had enjoyed almost two centuries of peace, at the price of isolation from the outside world and pervasive governmental control. Barred from any significant political activity, wealthy men of the middle and upper classes centered their lives on pleasure.

This exhibition features ukiyo-e  color prints that are “pictures of the floating world” — including images of renowned courtesans, scenes from kabuki theater, and views of famous places in Japan.

Image Credit: Utagawa Kunisada, Japanese, 1786-1864: Samurai