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Exhibit Catalog to the Morris County Historical Society's "Out of the Closet" Exhibition

The Game of Ken

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Yoshifuji
The Game of Ken
Circa mid-19th century
Woodblock print
9 1/2 x 14 in.
 
 
Found in the Collection.

Ken no e
 
Prints depicting the game of ken are known as "ken no e." Ken was often played as a drinking game, and was incorporated into kabuki plays as a dance. Ken no e prints often show kabuki actors dancing, and small human figures demonstrate each step of the dance. When kabuki art was made illegal for a short time starting in 1842, artists would often get around this ban by illustrating animals and mythological creatures performing the game of ken, just as kabuki actors would.
 
 
Yoshifuji's "Game of Ken"
 
Here three kabuki actors show different poses of the dance, while, above their heads, miniature dancers, accompanied by written directions, illustrate each dance step.