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國學院大學文学部教授 藤澤紫



Why do the faces of women in Japan’s bijinga paintings look mostly alike? Also, why are they drawn at a 45-degree angle?

Bijinga portraits reflect ideal faces of each era

日本の伝統的な美人画で特に重要視される要素は、大きく分けて3つほどあります。1. 時代の好みを反映した理想的な顔立ちであること。2. 流行の(または伝統的な)美しい衣装を身に着けていること。3. 女性らしい立ち振る舞い(ポーズ)が感じられること、などです。これらを総合して、絵師は需要者のニーズにあった理想的な女性像をつくりあげてきました。したがって、特定の人物を描いた肖像画を除き、美人画の多くは個性表現が希薄です。喜怒哀楽などの感情表現も控えめにすることが多いので、より一層、どの美人も「同じような顔」に感じられるのかもしれませんね。

また女性像に限らず、日本の人物像の多くが斜め45度から見た角度で描かれていることにも理由があります。1. 日本人の顔が欧米人に比べると立体性に欠けるため、西洋美術に多いプロフィール(横顔)表現は極めてまれである。2. 日本の絵画における立体像の把握のしかたが西洋とは異なるため、顔がより平板に見える正面像の例は少ない。3. これは私の私見ですが、日本では古くから「垣間見」という意識があり、正面から見据えるよりも傍らから様子を伺うことに風情を感じるといった民俗性が、絵画にも影響を与えたのではないかと思います。



楊州周延画 「真美人」 大判錦絵 明治30年11月

Bijinga is a genre of ukiyo-e with three distinctive features. First, bijinga paintings show portraits of women with what people in the Edo period (1603-1867) commonly considered an ideal facial appearance. Second, women drawn in bijinga wear beautiful attire that was either traditional or in fashion at the time. Third, women in bijinga assume feminine postures.

Incorporating all these elements, bijinga artists created their works primarily to satisfy buyers’ needs to see what people regarded as the ideal woman. As a result, many bijinga portraits have little individuality, showing no emotions, except for certain works depicting specific figures. Thus, many of the women in bijinga look alike. Why do traditional Japanese paintings feature people, male and female, with the upper parts of their bodies posed diagonally at an angle of 45 degrees? There are three reasons for this as well. First, it is generally said that the facial features of Japanese people are less pronounced than those of Westerners. Therefore, it is rare to see bijinga with the faces in profile, as often seen in Western paintings.

Second, Japanese artists of the past depicted stereoscopic images differently from their Western counterparts. There are therefore a limited number of Japanese paintings that are front-facing portraits, which would make the faces look increasingly flat. The third reason, which is my personal view, could be that Japanese society considered it refined to look at things from the side instead of the front – I think this tendency influenced the bijinga techniques.

People today may doubt that our ancestors really had the kind of facial appearance shown in bijinga and find it difficult to agree that the women in bijinga look beautiful. Bijinga paintings are a collection of works in which the artists created their own idealized “faces of the era,” after researching people’s artistic preferences and needs. By the same token, people in future generations – a few hundred years from now – may feel something is different or strange about the figures that appear in today’s comics and animation.

2016年10月31日付け、The Japan News掲載広告から