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Hell Courtesan (Jigoku-dayū)

early 1880s-mid 1880s


Kawanabe Kyōsai


1831 – 1889

Alternate image of Hell Courtesan (Jigoku-dayū) by Kawanabe Kyōsai
Alternate image of Hell Courtesan (Jigoku-dayū) by Kawanabe Kyōsai
Alternate image of Hell Courtesan (Jigoku-dayū) by Kawanabe Kyōsai
Alternate image of Hell Courtesan (Jigoku-dayū) by Kawanabe Kyōsai
  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Meiji period 1868 - 1912 → Japan
    early 1880s-mid 1880s
    Media category
    Materials used
    hanging scroll: ink, metallic pigments, and colour on silk
    54.6 x 98.1 cm image; 168.0 x 124.0 cm overall (including roller)
    Signature & date

    Signed: Seisei Kyōsai

    Purchased with funds provided by the Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation and the Jean Milner and Mary Tancred Bequests 2019
    Lower Asian gallery
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

    Artist information
    Kawanabe Kyōsai

    Works in the collection


  • About

    The artist Kawanabe Kyōsai was known during his lifetime for his political satire, artistic skill and eccentricity. Although trained in the established Utagawa and Kanō schools, the artist worked independently and produced some of the most imaginative images of the late Edo and early Meiji periods. Kyōsai was primarily a painter but also designed exceptional prints. He was a close friend and teacher of the English architect Josiah Conder (1852–1920) who lived in Japan from 1877 until his death.

    The Hell Courtesan (Jigoku-dayū) derives from legends of a 15th-century woman who dressed in robes decorated with images of the Buddhist hells. One of the most recognisable figures of supernatural Japan, she was a devout Buddhist whose faith was inspired by the Zen monk Ikkyū of the same period. Ikkyū is still much admired in Japan for his anti-establishment behaviour. In this painting Ikkyū is shown dancing on a skull.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 3 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 5 publications

  • Provenance

    Takashi Family, pre 1928, Japan

    Tokyo Bijutsu Club, Apr 1928, Tokyo/Japan, offered for sale in the auction titled ‘Second Sale: Takahashi Family Collection of April 1928’

    Private Collection, Apr 1928-2007

    Sebastian Izzard LLC, 2007-2008, New York/United States of America

    Roger Weston, 2008-2017, Chicago/Illinois/United States of America

    Sebastian Izzard LLC, 2017, United States of America, purchased from Roger Weston. Purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Aug 2019.

Other works by Kawanabe Kyōsai

See all 6 works