Geisha: Beyond the Painted Smile

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Renowned throughout the world as purveyors of beauty, mystery, and allure, geisha have come to represent the epitome of Japanese elegance and chic. The rich 250-year history of these performance artists is vividly presented in this volume, taking the reader behind the mask-like makeup and into the studios where they train and rehearse and into the teahouses where they entertain. Geisha have altered definitions of feminine beauty and identity and are the prevailing icons of Japanese womanhood. Their influence on Japan's decorative arts is documented by their beautiful kimono and hair ornaments and by the musical instruments and fans they use in their performances. The contributors to this book, all prominent specialists on Japanese culture, each consider a particular aspect of geisha tradition and aesthetics, from their music and dance to misperceptions of the profession by foreigners, from the portrayal of geisha as recurring characters in the theatre and film to profiles of talented women who choose this life and work today. Illustrated with woodblock prints and paintings as well as historical and contemporary photographs, this groundbreaking study also explores the dynamic tension between image and reality in the art of these exquisite entertainers. Geisha: Beyond the Painted Smile is a comprehensive presentation of geisha culture from its origins nearly three centuries ago to contemporary Japan. Disciplined performance artists of supreme grace and beauty, geisha are unique ambassadors of Japan's traditional culture.