Featuring dozens of stunning Japanese woodblock prints, textiles, serving vessels and thoughtful essays, "Seduction" paints a vibrant and provocative picture of Japan's "Uikoyo-e" or "floating world."
The phrase "floating world" came to be associated with pleasure districts especially the Yoshiwara in Edo (modern Tokyo), where the population was predominantly male that were created to delight idle men and relieve them of their money. The two most important offerings were theatrical performances and sexual encounters. (Food and drink were also attractions as discussed in the essay "Sex and Sea Bream.") The quarter promised, catalogue editor Laura W. Allen writes, "Limitless options for sex and play," where "sexual partners were available in variations to suite every taste and budget."
To promote the association of the pleasure quarter with unrestrained indulgence, artists created countless beautiful and luxurious works of art. Among the most entrancing were objects now in the John C. Webber Collection, which are catalogued in this volume. Paintings and woodblock prints advertised celebrity courtesans, attracted potential patrons, and guided them through the quarter. The collection's centerpiece, A Visit to Yoshiwara by Hishikawa Moronobu (d 1694) presented here in full as a series of gatefold pages is one such guide. This almost fifty-eight-foot-long handscroll takes viewers on an imaginative tour of Edo's licensed pleasure quarter, laying bare its exacting etiquette, famous brothels, and chic fashions. The sensory experiences described in the handscroll food, drink, dance, and sexual encounters are echoed elsewhere in the collection's paintings, serving vessels, woodblock prints, and textiles.
Other highlights include eighteenth- and nineteenth-century paintings and prints of courtesans by some of Japan's most important artists: Katsukawa Shunsho (d. 1792), Kitagawa Utamaro (1754-1806), Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) and Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). These artworks demonstrate how artists used fashion, promises of intimacy, and disguise to stimulate desire and lure potential customers."
Japan's Floating World: the John C. Weber Collection