Blog post

Life of a geisha

Meet the skilled Japanese entertainers

Julia Schellenberg (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

A white face, pillow strapped on your back, socks and wooden flip flops - what work wear! A Geisha is a Japanese entertainer skilled in traditional Japanese art. The term Geisha is even a combination of the words for art and person.

The golden age of Geishas was in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, numbers are declining, and their services are expensive and exclusive. Though you can always dive into their world on Europeana for free!

assetimage2 (3)

Geisha at her toilet by Felice Beato, 1867-1868. Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

During her education, a Geisha in training learns traditional Japanese arts like calligraphy, and to play several Japanese musical instruments like the lute, flute and hand drum. A Geisha must also be skilled in conversation, a good singer, dancer and hostess, and master the tea ceremony. To be a success, she must be graceful, charming, educated, and know the rules of etiquette, always remaining composed.

assetimage2 (1) assetimage2 (4)

Geisha by Keisai Eisen, 1845, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain. Niaiso by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1888, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain


Geishas by Agence Rol., early 20th century, National Library of France, Public Domain

If these paintings and photographs have made you curious to see more depictions of the mysterious world of Japanese Geishas, you can look at more on our dedicated Pinterest board.

Japan art Geisha