Japanese Anatomical Diagrams that utilize 19th-Century Kabuki Actors as Models

The opening of Japan in the 19th century after its isolationist Edo period caused an influx of foreign influence, including Western approaches to medicine. Woodblock prints from this era, often in the vibrant ukiyo-e style, captured this transition, with kabuki actors representing internal processes, and Buddhist deities battling cholera and measles.

The University of California, San Francisco, has a particularly rich collection of over 400 of these works in the UCSF Japanese Woodblock Print Collection. The illustrations are similar to work by famed ukiyo-e woodblock artist Utagawa Kunisada, depicting the workings of internal organs. According to Sotheby’s, which sold one example last December, the tiny samurai on the body of a man drinking a cup of tea with a bowl of fish are miming everything from the gall bladder controlling the order, to a scholar situated in a flaming heart, the mounds of books alongside helping his guidance of the life processes. Another print, believed to be by a student of Kunisada, has a smoking courtesan with annotated figures representing “sexual life rules.”

https://hyperallergic.com/312158/human-anatomy-as-portrayed-in-woodblocks-of-19th-century-kabuki-actors/ https://japanesewoodblockprints.library.ucsf.edu
Powered by Blogger.