Gen Ki, Haunted palace, a handscroll painting

Kyoto, Japan
Edo period, 2nd month, AD 1778

Gen Ki (Komai Yukinosuke, 1747-97) was an outstanding pupil of Maruyama ōkyo (1733-95). He was most celebrated for his elegant paintings of human figures, especially beautiful Chinese women. The subject of this scroll, with its grotesque, yet comic monsters and apparitions, is unusual among his works.

The scroll is in two sections. The first shows a variety of monsters, many deriving from what was originally a medieval Buddhist genre, Hyakki yagyō-e ('Night Procession of One Hundred Demons'). The setting is the elegant but dilapidated mansion of a court nobleman. It is night and the monsters are amusing themselves with various aristocratic pastimes such as the Tea Ceremony, go (a board-game), poetry and dance. Other sections of the scroll show scenes outside in the garden where other frightening figures such as the mythical water-sprite, the kappa, wander beside a stream.

A single pine tree divides this first section and the rest of the scroll. Here the scene and mood changes completely, and ordinary people - cooks, servants and even sword-bearing samurai - are seen at work in the kitchen of a mansion preparing a lavish meal of fish and fowl. They may be preparing a banquet at which ghost stories would have been told.

It is possible that the scroll is intended as a humorous and sympathetic comment on the contrast between the failing fortunes of the nobility and the rise of the samurai class.

The signature reads 'Gen Ki' and the seals read 'Gen Ki no in' ('seal of Gen Ki') and 'Shion'.

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More information

Bibliography

L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)

Dimensions

Height: 273.000 mm
Length: 11357.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP 2411 (1881.12-10.02366)

JCF1905

William Anderson Collection

Location

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