- Museum number
Painting, handscroll. First section: monsters engaged in elegant activities in dilapidated mansion of court nobleman, 'kappa' in stream; second section: people preparing food for banquet in kitchen of samurai's residence, fish and fowl by well, setting sun. Ink, colour and gold on paper. Signed, dated and sealed.
- Production date
- 1778 (2nd month)
Height: 27.50 centimetres
Width: 1135.70 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Smith et al 1990
Japanese ghost paintings are populated with a teeming horde of hideous monsters, inanimate objects come to life, and eerie spooks. Particularly from the mid-eighteenth century onwards picture-books and paintings abound showing all manner of things which go bump in the night, though the comic situations in which they are often depicted suggests that the supernatural was no longer a source of much genuine terror. Telling ghost stories and looking at pictures of spooks was a popular pastime for a stifling summer night, when any chill running down the spine would be welcome.
Genki's handscroll populates the halls and gardens of an aristocratic mansion with bizarre creatures which are often dressed as courtiers acting out suitably leisured pursuits: in the scene reproduced a dignitary with a long beak poking out from under his court hat is watching a repulsively ugly maid do a fan dance, while a creature dressed in skulls - who is normally shown gnawing bones - is providing a tune on the 'shakuhachi' bamboo flute. The scroll comes to a close with a scene of comforting normality, as servants in the kitchen prepare food for a midsummer 'spooks' day' banquet, and after a cock crows the sun rises to drive away the fetid monsters of the imagination.
The lyrical landscape passages show the strong stylistic influence of Maruyama Okyo (1733-95), Genki's famous teacher.
Smith, Lawrence, "The Early Influence of Maruyama Okyo's New Style: A Handscroll by Komai Genki in the British Museum", in 'Artistic Personality and Decorative Style in Japanese Art' (ed. William Watson), London, 1977, pp. 86-100.
Hillier, Jack, 'The Uninhibited Brush: Japanese Art in the Shijo style', London, 1974, nos 58, 59.
Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 2
The first, longer section of this scroll depicts a variety of monsters engaged in various activities in the dilapidated mansion of a court nobleman, while the short latter section shows a scene in the kitchen of a high-ranking samurai's residence, where preparations are being made for a splendid banquet. The intention seems to be a satirical comparison between the nobility in decline and the increasingly prospering samurai class. In a sense, the work can be seen as a precursor of the 'Konkai zoshi' (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), a picture scroll by Ukita Ikkei - a 'yamato-e' revivalist of the late Edo period and an ardent champion of the imperial family - parodying the wedding procession of the daughter of an impoverished noble by showing all the figures as foxes in human guise. In its treatment of the supernatural beings the work employs humorous means to contrast the fortunes of the nobles and the samurai class, yet it is at the same time imbued, as might be expected of a work by a Kyoto artist, with sympathy for the nobility and the court in their decline.
At the beginning of the scroll, a group of monsters (who might well have escaped from another well-known scroll of monsters, the 'Hyakki yagyo emaki', in the possession of Shinjuan, a sub-temple of Daitokuji) are shown in a noble's mansion at night, competing with each other in a variety of elegant accomplishments more appropriate to the nobles themselves - tea ceremony, incense competition, 'go' (a Japanese board game), poetry-making, and dance. The scroll then shows a stream flowing into a pond in the garden and traces it upstream, grotesque water-dwelling beings such as 'kappa', together with birdlike monsters and snakes, putting in an appearance as it does so. Eventually, a narrow path leads from the stream bank to a low hill with a single pine tree, marking the beginning of the scroll's second section, the scene in a samurai mansion. Here, a large number of people are busily engaged in preparing food for a banquet; indoors, food is being broiled or stewed on a charcoal fire, while outside, by the well, fish and fowl are being prepared for cooking. The fact that a large number of people are wearing formal 'kamishimo' costumes, some of them carrying short swords at their side, suggests that the master of this distinguished house - suggesting affluence, and clearly a meeting-place for all kinds of people - may well be some well-known samurai figure of the day.
The Kyoto artist Komai Genki (1747-97), one of the more talented pupils of Maruyama Okyo, specialized in human figures, and in particular voluptuous young Chinese women (see illustration, p. 280). To anyone familiar with the mild, elegant style for which he is better known, his portrayal of such monsters in the present work will reveal a new and surprising dimension of his art.
'2366. A very fine painting of an uncommon subject.'
'Painted by Koma-i Genki.' (unattributed annotations in the specially interleaved Japanese Study Room copy of Anderson 1886)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2010 Feb-Jun, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from Prehistory to the Present'
2013 Apr – Oct, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from Prehistory to the Present'
2019 Apr - Oct, BM, Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries (Go board section)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The collection of over 2,000 Japanese and Chinese paintings assembled by Prof. William Anderson during his residency in Japan, 1873-1880, was acquired by the Museum in 1881. The items were not listed in the register, but rather were published separately as the 'Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of a Collection of Japanese and Chinese Paintings in the British Museum' (Longmans & Co, 1886).
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.2411 (Japanese Painting Number)