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Beauty With Mirror

Beauty With Mirror

Beauty with Mirror by Hirano Hakuho (1932)

Full of mystery, this rare print plays on the viewer’s sense of curiosity. Despite being portrayed in front of a mirror, we are not able to see the young lady’s face. Who is she? With her face hidden, we are left to wonder what is her expression and what are her  feelings, and what is the context of the portrait.

Decorated with fine tie-dyed patterns of waves and wheels, her yukata - or summer kimono, is tied with a dark obi belt. The sash is a hanhaba obi, that is an informal obi worn in summer or in private.

While the artist hid her face from our gaze, he exposed her beautiful neck, considered as a highly erotic part of feminine body by the Japanese. In the past, women’s kimono sometimes hid a cord attached to the back of the collar that could be discreetly pulled by the lady to reveal her neck to her lover. Thus, the art of seduction was integrated into the design and layout of the kimono!

Before the Mirror by Hirano Hakuho (1932)

After the Meiji restoration men of all ranks were required to wear European suits at work, changing back to the familiar kimono at home, whilst ordinary women retained the kimono as an everyday garment. This led to an association of the kimono with womenswear and femininity which remains to this day.

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