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Geisha With Musical Instrument

Geisha With Musical Instrument

Geisha with Musical Instrument by Eisen Keisai (c. 1820-1830)

 Primarily musicians and entertainers, geisha can be identified by their simpler kimono, with obi belts tied at the back. In this print by Eisen Keisai (1790-1848) a geisha carries a musical instrument in a narrow black case as she is about to step into a party to entertain guests. Her fashionably plain kimono is offset by an extravagant obi in a sharply contrasting colour. According to Edo Period regulations, only courtesans working in licensed pleasure districts had to tie their obi sash in front. This way, they could be distinguished from all the other women, including geisha.

Two Geisha and a Maid Walking by Kitao Shigemasa (c. 1800s)

 Geisha initially meant the job of all kind of performers, both male and female. With time, it increasingly applied to women only, and this latter meaning was imported to the West. Trained for years, geisha were (and still are) artists and entertainers. They are well versed in various arts such as music, dance, and poetry, as well as being expected to be up to date with the news and happenings of the world and to be able to converse with their patrons about all kind of topics from politics to sports and international relations.

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