iki いき
KEY WORD :  art history / general terms
The aesthetic ideal of the Edo merchant class during the late 18c and 19c, combining material sensuality and elegant sophistication. Iki means "spirit" or "life" but came to mean the spirited or lively way in which someone lived, as well as the styles of fashion and art that expressed this lifestyle. The term is usually written with the character 粋 which is read sui in the kamigata 上方 (Kyoto-Osaka region). The Edo conception of iki grew out of sui, but altered it to suit the Edo taste, subduing the colour sense and adding a note of sensual appeal. Iki also has roots in the early and mid Edo period ideal of *date だて, expressing much the same brash manner of the merchant class, the up-to-date sense of style, and lustful or decadent flair. By the end of the 19c, however, the privileged merchant ranks refined the somewhat vulgar original meaning of iki to reflect the more sophisticated style of someone possessing wealth but not attached to it, familiar with sensual pleasures but not a slave to them, and aware of current fads but able to rise above them. The term thus included elements associated with *tsuu 通. Iki was broadly influential in early 19c fashion and art, but perhaps the ideal expression of iki was found in the culture of the Edo pleasure quarters as exemplified by the Tatsumi 辰巳 (Fukagawa 深川) geisha 芸者 and in the alluring pictures of beautiful women *bijinga 美人画, produced by Keisai Eisen 渓斎英泉 (1790-1848) and Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 (1786-1864).


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