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Title

Hell Courtesan (Jigoku-dayū)

early 1880s-mid 1880s


Artist

Kawanabe Kyōsai

Japan

1831 - 1889


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.


Details


Place where the work was made

Japan


Date

early 1880s-mid 1880s


Media category

Painting


Materials used

hanging scroll: ink, metallic pigments, and colour on silk


Dimensions

54.6 x 98.1 cm image; 168.0 x 124.0 cm overall (including roller)


Signature & date

Signed: Seisei Kyōsai


Credit

Art Gallery of New South Wales Foundation purchase, with funds from the Jean Milner and Mary Tancred bequests, 2019


Location

Not on display


Accession number

6.2019


Artist information

Kawanabe Kyōsai

Works in the collection

6


Place

Where the work was made
Japan

Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Referenced in 3 publications

Bibliography


Narazaki Muneshige, Famous Choice Paintings ('Meisaku-sen'), Ukiyo-e Paintings ('Nikuhitsu ukiyo-e'), Tokyo, 1983, p. 73. fig. 7. Listed as lost and re-photographed from 1928 catalog

Emily Sano, Heaven and Hell: Salvation and Retribution in Pure Land Buddhism, San Antonio, 2017, 99 (colour illus.). pl. 46

Yasumura Toshinobu, ‘Bessatsu Taiyo' ('Kawanabe Kyōsai: Kiso no tensai eshi' [Kawanabe Kyōsai: demon of painting], 'Kisō no honryū eshi' (Master of the Eccentric and Weird), Tokyo, 2008, pp. 12, 13.