Beauty Secrets - Edo Era Makeup and Hairstyles in Japanese Prints

From October 7, 2020 to February 6, 2021, at the Maison de la Culture du Japon in Paris, 101 bis, quai Branly. 75015 PARIS.

This unique exhibition, bringing together nearly 150 prints and 60 objects (mirrors, combs, hairpins, wigs, etc.), is a plunge into the intimacy and beauty rituals of women of the Edo period (1603-1868). It allows you to discover, through four thematic sections, the evolution of make-up and hairstyle, which responded to the respect of strict social rules and the search for elegance.

White, black, red: the makeup of the Edo period consists mainly of these three colors. Showing off pristine white skin being a crucial point for women, white powder is always applied to the face, neck and back of the neck. Black is linked to rites of passage. If common women dye their teeth black when married and shave their eyebrows at the birth of their first child, in the court nobility and the warrior aristocracy, after a certain age, they redraw their eyebrows at the top of the forehead. As for red, rare and precious, it arises sparingly on the lips and cheeks.

The sophisticated art of hairdressing reached its peak during the Edo period. The styles of buns are diversifying quickly, to the point that we would have counted up to several hundred! At the same time, hair ornaments are developed which brighten up the hair. Just like makeup, hairstyles are indicators of age, social class, marital status or even profession.

In the hierarchical society of the Edo period, women cannot freely choose their makeup or hairstyle. But the inventiveness of which they show are at the origin of a diversified art of the toilet, one of the most beautiful occasions to adorn beautifully being the wedding ceremony.

The three series of prints gathered in the last section represent the Japanese woman of the Edo period in her incredible diversity: women of the common people, courtesans, wife and concubines of the shogun ... These works make us penetrate into multiple scenes of life daily and sublimate the beauty of these women.

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