Shuten Dōji ('Yorimitsu and the drunken monster of Mount Ibuki'), a handscroll painting

Japan
Edo period, 17th century AD

This handscroll illustrates the legend of how an ogre called Shuten Dōji ('The Drunken Boy') was killed by the warrior Minamoto Yorimitsu (who actually lived AD 948-1021).

Shuten Dōji lured young women to his lair in the mountains where he kept them prisoner and sometimes ate them. Yorimitsu and his four companions deceived the monster by disguising themselves as yamabushi ('mountain monks'). They made him drunk, then cut off his head, freeing the district from this terrible peril. In this scene the warriors, disguised as monks, cross a ravine by way of a fallen pine trunk. They carry portable shrines on their backs. Some locals point and welcome them with obvious pleasure and relief. The historical Yorimitsu was a warrior who served the Heian court by getting rid of robbers and pirates, suggesting why this legend was attached to him.

The composition of the scroll is based on a famous set of scrolls attributed to Kanō Masanobu (1476-1559). The lively detail and energy are clearly Kanō' in style, but the earthy vigour suggests that it was commissioned by a rich townsman rather than by a daimyō.

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More information

Bibliography

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

Dimensions

Height: 268.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP 453-87 (1881.12-10.383-416)

JCF407;JCF440

William Anderson Collection

Location

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