Fine large vertical format original woodblock print, taken from the series “Thirty-six Elegant Selections” (三十六佳撰) by the artist Mizuno Toshikata (水野年方). The work, produced in 1891 by the publisher Akiyama Buemon (秋山武右衛門), owner of Kokkeido (滑稽堂), is entitled “Shirabyoshi, Woman of the Kenkyu Era” (白拍子 建久頃婦人) and depicts a dancer with a tsuzumi (鼓) hourglass-shaped drum.
Shirabyoshi were female entertainers. Their profession became popular in the 12th century and they performed for the nobility, and at celebrations. In a period of power and social change, a change in fortune for some aristocratic families resulted in the daughters of these families needing to perform as dancers in order to survive. As educated and cultured ladies, they become a superior group of courtesans noted for their singing, dancing and poetry as well as beauty. Shirabyoshi were recognizable for the outfit they would wear, which was Shinto-inspired: it was a man’s outfit with a tate eboshi (立烏帽子) hat, red hakama (袴) trousers and a a samurai’s sword.
The print on Japanese washi paper (和紙), despite some signs of aging, is in good general condition.