Height: 439.000 mm
Width: 603.000 mm
Gift of Sir W. Gwynne-Evans, Bt.
Asia JA JP 1424 (1913.5-1.0405)
Hosoda Eishi, The Chinese beauty Yang Guifei, a hanging scroll painting
Edo period, about AD 1800-20
Concubine of the Chinese emperor
Yang Guifei, the concubine of the Tang-dynasty emperor Xuanzong (AD 685-762), was renowned for her beauty. The poet Li Bo compared her to the peony, considered the most lovely of all flowers, and to female deities and immortals. Some 1200 years later she was still inspiring Japanese Ukiyo-e painters and print makers. Eishi painted her many times, on occasion comparing her with the Japanese court poetess and beauty, Ono no Komachi. Other artists depicted her playing the flute with Emperor Xuanzong. Here she is seated alone on a Chinese-style throne in an exquisite garden of peonies and wisteria against a landscape of mountains and a river fringed with irises. Eishi is perhaps alluding here to a poem by Li Bo comparing her to a Chinese immortal.
Hosoda Eishi (1756-1829) was of high-ranked samurai birth and began his painting career as a pupil of the Kanō school artist Eisen-in Michinobu. Such privileged background and training were quite unusual among Ukiyo-e painters. Atmospheric Kanō-style ink washes of the mountains complement the delicately detailed depiction of the figure and flowers that surround her.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)
T. Clark, Ukiyo-e paintings in the Briti (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)
M. Narasaki (ed.), Hizō Ukiyo-e taikan, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987)