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kottke.org posts about Utagawa Hiroshige

Edo Period Shadow Puppetry Woodblock Prints

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2021

woodblock print of shadow puppet instructions

woodblock print of shadow puppet instructions

woodblock print of shadow puppet instructions

Circa 1842, ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Hiroshige released an 11-print series revealing the secrets of shadow puppetry performances. From the description of one of these woodblock prints held in the collection at The Minneapolis Institute of Art:

As comic entertainment, shadow performances were among the many diversions, including music and dance, offered at teahouse parties during the Edo period. In the eleven-print series Improvised Shadow Performances, Hiroshige depicted figures making shadows on shōji screens by contorting their bodies. The images demonstrate how to create ingenious shadows and could easily have been used as a how-to guide for clever shadow making.

You can find more of Hiroshige’s shadow prints at Ukiyo-e.org. (via colossal)