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ARCHIVED Paragons in Print: Exemplary Women in Edo Japan

Monday 20 November 2023 / 6:45pm
Paragons in Print: Exemplary Women in Edo Japan

Monday 20 November 2023


The Swedenborg Society

20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St)
London WC1A 2TH

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While prints of the Edo period (c. 1615–1868) are known for their depictions of floating world beauties, this does not capture the full diversity of women depicted in Japan’s graphic arts. Prompted by a puzzling set of luxury prints by artist Yashima Gakutei (1786–1868), this talk takes up the subject of retsujo, exemplary women. Taking inspiration from much earlier Chinese texts, Edo’s printmakers assembled a changing collective of women that encompassed poets, warriors, sex workers and goddesses. These paragons were picked out of history and legend to be (re)presented across different media, for different audiences, and with different intent. Following these women through Japan’s printed arts—from books and private commissions to popular prints—we come closer to understanding the dynamic roles of subject and medium in Edo-period Japan.

Mary Redfern, Ph.D, joined the Asia Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum as Curator, Japan, in March of this year from her previous role as Curator of East Asian Collections at the Chester Beatty, Dublin. Since completing her Ph.D at the University of East Anglia in 2015 on Meiji-era imperial tableware and diplomatic dining, Mary’s research interests have expanded to include Japan’s graphic and narrative arts as well as Meiji-era ceramics and metalwork. Her publications include Edo in Colour: Prints from Japan’s Metropolis (Chester Beatty, 2021), Art of Friendship: Japanese Surimono Prints (Chester Beatty, 2017) and Tenno no dainingu horu (Emperor’s Dining Hall; Shibunkaku, 2017) written with Yamazaki Taisuke and Imaizumi Yoshiko. Most recently, Mary was one of the curators for the exhibition Japan: Myths to Manga, now open at Young V&A, Bethnal Green.

*Image: ‘Princess Sotoori’ (detail) from the series Framed Paintings of Women for the Katsushika Circle, Yashima Gakutei, Japan, c. 1822. CBL J 2055. © The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. CC BY-NC 4.0.

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