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The beauty of human decomposition in Japanese watercolor

April 7, 2016

Strange Remains

Kusozu: the death of a noble lady and the decay of her body, panel 6 of 9. Decomposition continues with the help of scavengers. Kusozu: the death of a noble lady and the decay of her body, panel 6 of 9.
Decomposition continues with the help of scavengers.

I think I might be obsessed with kusozu, Japanese watercolor paintings that graphically depict human decomposition, which were popular between the 13th and 19th centuries; Body of a Courtesan in Nine Stages is another series in this genre featured previously on this site.  Kusozu works of art were inspired by Buddhist beliefs and these paintings were meant to encourage people to ponder the temporary nature of the physical world.  Kusozu watercolors also happen to be fantastic early studies of human decay and taphonomy, which is why one series, titled Kusozu: the death of a noble lady and the decay of her body, is currently on display as part of the Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime exhibit in London.

According to the Wellcome Collection, Kusozu: the death of a noble lady and the decay of her…

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