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  • Thumbnail for The Courtesan Miyakoji of Tamaya Brothel and her Attendants in Edo-cho Itchome Street
    The Courtesan Miyakoji of Tamaya Brothel and her Attendants in Edo-cho Itchome Street by Kikugawa Eizan

    From the Seiro Meikun Zoroi (A Set of Famous Courtesans from Green Houses) series. Though he studied with his father, many consider Kikugawa Eizan to be the best of the late followers of Utamaro. Known for his highly elegant (furyu) bijin-ga the artist continued a stylish elegance that many of his contemporaries eschewed for a more earthy realism. Curiously, he all but ceased ukiyo-e printmaking in the 1820s, a full forty years before his death. Bijin-ga (images of beauties) might be of actual contemporary and historic women or of an idealized type of beauty specific to a time and region. Courtesans in particular were usually depicted in the latest and most elaborate fashions of the day. After an increasing number of censorship laws were passed to limit the production of prints of famous courtesans, thought to corrupt the morals of the citizens of Japan, many artists turned to domestic images of mothers and daughters or women with servants and generalized pictures of the latest fashions in order to satisfy the demand for bijin-ga and skirt the laws.