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Nishiyama Hōen, Procession of Insects, a hanging scroll painting


Height: 492.000 mm
Width: 861.000 mm

William Anderson Collection

Asia JA JP 2484 (1881.12-10.02264)

    Nishiyama Hōen, Procession of Insects, a hanging scroll painting

    Late Edo period, 19th century AD

    A satirical scene

    An orderly procession of insects, made up of grasshoppers, bees and praying mantises, makes its way diagonally across the painting. Some in the leading section carry flowers, which they hold aloft like standards. Behind them, grasshoppers carry a large bundle suspended from a pole in imitation of a lord's palanquin (covered litter). The bees bringing up the rear all carry some item - a bee's nest, rice plants, etc. The whole composition is a satirical version of the ceremonial procession of a feudal lord journeying to or from the Shōgun's court in Edo (modern Tokyo).

    Hōen (1804-67) was an Osaka-based painter who had trained with Matsumura Keibun (1779-1843), and was one of the most significant Shijō school painters of his time. Hōen often expressed the mood of autumn in his works by combining the appropriate flowers with insects. Here, however, he may simply have wished to show his skill at accurately describing such minute creatures, or it may have been an act of rivalry; Mori Shunkei (flourished 1800-20) published a painting of insects using realistic techniques. A version of the same subject is known by Keibun, and it may indeed originate with Maruyama ōkyo (1733-95), founder of the whole Maruyama-Shijō lineage of painters.

    The signature reads 'Hōen', and the seal reads 'Nishi Hōen'.

    I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)


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