Zhong Kui Painted by Sesshu


The term ukiyo-e, literally “pictures of the floating world,” refers to a genre of Japanese artwork that flourished in the Edo period (1600–1868). As the phrase “floating world” suggests, with its roots in the ephemeral worldview of Buddhism, ukiyo-e captured the fleeting dynamics of contemporary urban life. While being accessible and catering to “common” tastes, the artistic and technical details of these prints show remarkable sophistication, their subjects ranging from portraits of courtesans and actors to classical literature. Isoda Koryūsai, who flourished 1764–88, significantly contributed to the development of nishiki-e (full-color prints) which Suzuki Harunobu had introduced around 1765. Although he is well-known for his bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women), here he is depicting Shōki, a Taoist god and slayer of demons, whose tale is told in China as well as Japan. Koryūsai created this work soon after he received official recognition with an honorary religious rank of hokkyō in 1781. He refers to the rank on the right side of this print. Few extant works are signed in this manner.

Last updated: September 18, 2015