Updated Version of Hagoromo


The term ukiyo-e, literally “pictures of the floating world,” refers to a genre of Japanese artwork that flourished in the Edo period (1600–1868). As the phrase “floating world” suggests, with its roots in the ephemeral worldview of Buddhism, ukiyo-e captured the fleeting dynamics of contemporary urban life. While being accessible and catering to “common” tastes, the artistic and technical details of these prints show remarkable sophistication, their subjects ranging from portraits of courtesans and actors to classical literature. This playful print by Ishikawa Toyonobu (1711–85) depicts a scene in the folklore of the hagoromo (literally “feather kimono” or heavenly garment), in which a young man helps an aerial spirit retrieve her mantle from a tree. In return he gains the opportunity to witness her celestial dance, but the spirit rises in the air as she dances, returning to the heavens. The flowing lines of the robe revealing her leg is typical of Ishikawa Toyonobu’s mature style of bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women). Bijin-ga captured the trends in feminine beauty by featuring both real and idealized images of high-ranking courtesans, historic figures, geisha (performers of music and dance), lower-ranked courtesans, fictional characters, notable townswomen, and ordinary women.

Last updated: September 18, 2015