British Museum presents Women of the pleasure quarters a Japanese painted screen

The British Museum in London presents Women of the pleasure quarters a Japanese painted screen on view 29 August – 3 November 2013. This beautiful screen evokes the world of pleasure and entertainment created for men in Japan of the early 1780s.

Women of the pleasure quarters
Welcome to Yoshiwara – the most famous district of Edo (modern-day Tokyo). This rare surviving screen depicts elaborately dressed courtesans, who would today be referred to as female sex workers, presenting themselves to attract clients at the Kado-Tamaya, the Jewel House on the Corner.

During the Edo period in Japan (1600–1868) a military government regulated almost every aspect of daily life, promoting duty and hard work, but the ‘floating world’ (ukiyo) of the brothel and theatre districts presented a more seductive message – surrender to the pleasures of the moment. Today the ‘floating world’ is known mostly through woodblock prints and hanging scrolls. This screen is one of the most important paintings from this school of art, being one of only a few large-scale depictions of the subject to have survived. www.britishmuseum.org

Top