- Museum number
- Object: Hyakunin joro shina-sadame 百人女郎品定 (One Hundred Women Classified According to their Rank)
Illustrated book, print. Vol. 1 from a set of two volumes. Vol. 1 depicting women of all vocations and classes, beginning with three court ladies of the highest status: a female emperor, an emperor’s consort and a princess. Vol. 2 depicting courtesans of high and low degree, including sex workers from the Shimabara pleasure quarter in Kyoto. Woodblock-printed.
- Production date
Height: 28.50 centimetres
Width: 19.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
This work depicts in two volumes the everyday life of Edo-period women, collecting in its pages images of court and samurai ladies, townswomen, country girls, geisha and sex workers, who perform a kaleidoscope of daily tasks and amusements. The images are preceded by considerable comment on the different kinds of women and their activities. Volume one begins with a female emperor and court ladies (top), and then introduces samurai women and a broad range of classes of women at various tasks. Volume two, in contrast, begins with ‘professional’ women of pleasure, the high-ranked courtesans of Shimabara, Kyoto’s official pleasure quarter (bottom). We are then introduced to the women of Edo’s Yoshiwara and Osaka’s Shinmachi quarters, leading to the final image in the book, a ‘night hawk’ streetwalker, or yotaka. All the women are depicted as elegant and gentle, one hardly different from the other. Sex workers were officially considered to be outcasts, below the class and status ranking system. So giving them equal space in the same book to all the other recognized classes put together was significant. This is further complicated by the fact that in the Edo period the word ‘joro - ’ of the title could refer to upper-class women and to women in general, as well as to sex workers. Hyakunin joro- shinasadame was published in Kyoto in 1723, immediately after the banning of erotic books (ko-shokubon), and it is famous today because it was censored by the Bakufu authorities, even though it shows only women and includes absolutely no scenes of sex or romance. This title, and its erotic sequel Hime kagami, which does depict samurai and courtiers having sex, appeared at a period of high tension during the Kyo-ho- reforms of the 1720s, particularly with regard to the newly enacted regulations on publishing.1 These books may have been banned simply because they transgressed a fundamental premise of the samurai government – strict distinctions of social class and status. Any attempt to make different spheres of social life appear to be equal and homogenous was considered an affront to the Tokugawa system. Later editions of the book, even in the modern era, often excluded the empress illustration. [AGR]
Hillier and Smith 1980
This is one of the masterpieces of 'Ukiyoe' art.
Brown, Louise Norton, 'Block Printing and Book Illustration in Japan', London and New York, 1924, pp. 130 and 132.
'Nihon fuzoku zue', vol. 3, Tokyo, 1914.
Facsimile, Rinsen Book Co. Ltd., Kyoto, 1979.
Toda, Kenji, 'Descriptive Catalogue of the Japanese and Chinese Illustrated Books in the Ryerson Library of the Art Institute of Chicago', Chicago, 1931, pp. 129-30.
Volume 1 portrays women of all vocations and classes; volume 2 courtesans of high and low degree. This is one of the masterpieces of 'Ukiyoe' art and of the black and white style.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1996 22 May-26 Aug, London, National Gallery, 'Degas as Collector'
2013 3 Oct - 2014 5 Jan, London, BM, Shunga: Sex and pleasure in Japanese art, 1600-1900
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: JH.70 (Hillier no.)