The Evolution of Bijin'ga (Beauty Pictures)
The word "bijin'ga" means "beauty picture" or "a portrait of a beautiful woman".
During the Edo period in Japan, Ukiyo-e artists often chose to depict
the people found in the "red light" districts (or pleasure quarters) of Edo (present-day Tokyo) - notably the kabuki actors
and beautiful women found there. Ukiyo-e artists found that portraits of waitresses, courtesans, and geisha from these districts
were wildly popular, and so these subjects flourished during the Edo period.
During the Meiji period, although the term "Ukiyo-e" ("floating world") still applies
to the style, the subject matter slowly changed. Kabuki actors and courtesan portraits were still being produced, but the
real focus of attention moved from courtesan bijin'ga to everyday beautiful women performing ordinary tasks.
Bijin'ga, for the most part, were not even considered art when they were produced.
Many kabuki actor and bijin'ga prints were used for advertisements, postcards, and mementos for special occasions.
"Beauty Preparing to Depart"
This particular "beauty picture" is of the Edo period and is by Kuniyoshi. It belongs
to a series called "Actors Showing Off," which depicts full-length images of beautiful women with small bust portraits of kabuki
actors in battledore-shaped cartouches.