Body of a courtesan in nine stages of decomposition  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Body of a courtesan in nine stages of decomposition[1] is a set of nine drawings and prints by Japanese artist Kobayashi Eitaku.

The scroll shows the stages of decomposition of the body of a woman, beginning with her fully clothed body and ending with her bones being eaten by dogs. The subject is an ancient Buddhist one, treating of the transience of the physical body, but which later assumed didactic functions relating to the proper conduct of women. In this example, however, the theme is given a new and somewhat prurient twist by its featuring of a prostitute as the subject. The work intersects with the world of ‘erotic pictures’ (shunga) and gives a very useful counterpoint for studying that genre. A prolific and versatile artist trained in the traditional Kano school, Eitaku achieved success rather through ukiyoe works and newspaper illustrations, but his reputation in Japan is not yet as high as it should be. Like many important artists whose careers straddled the end of the Edo period and beginning of the Meiji era, Japanese scholars have found it problematic to classify him. (TTC, Dec 2008)[2]




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