Collection online

painting / hanging scroll

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Painting, hanging scroll. Susano-o no Mikoto subduing Yamata no Orochi, eight-headed serpent in form of dragon, coming up out of raging sea on storm-swept rocky coast. Ink and colours on silk. Signed and sealed.

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1871-1889
    • 1887 (according to Conder)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 100.4 centimetres
    • Width: 29.7 centimetres
    • Height: 184 centimetres (mount)
    • Width: 44 centimetres (mount)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom right
      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

        Seisei Kyosai
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom right
      • Inscription Comment

        Unread; in red.
  • Curator's comments

    Smith et al 1990

    Susano'o no Mikoto was the younger brother of the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami. After his obnoxious behaviour had driven his sister to hide in a cave, plunging the world into darkness, Susano'o was banished from the High Celestial Plane to the Izumo region in western Japan. Here he intoxicated and then slew an eight-headed, eight-tailed serpent ('yamata no orochi') and rescued Princess Kushinada. In the tail of the serpent he discovered the sword which became one of the three regalia of the Imperial family. Kyosai appears to have modified the standard version of the story by showing the snake as a dragon coming up out of a raging sea on a storm-swept rocky coast, and by having Susano'o brandish his sword before the monster has been pacified with drink.

    Though trained in the academic Kano school, Kyosai was a master of many painting styles, ranging from highly finished 'serious' exhibition pieces like this one to wild, satirical sketches dashed off impromptu under the influence of sake. Here the composition is cleverly organised so the viewer focuses first on the brightly coloured figure of Susano'o, before noticing the serpent lurking in the foaming waves beneath.

    The painting was formerly in the collection of Josiah Conder, the English architect working in Japan in the 1880s, who was a pupil, patron and biographer of Kyosai.

    Conder, Josiah, 'Paintings and Studies by Kawanabe Kyosai', Tokyo, 1911.

    See also:
    Smith, Lawrence, "Kyutoryu o taiji suru Susano'o no Mikoto", 'Kyosai' 36 (September), 2, 1988, frontispiece.Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 3

    An orthodox historical painting by the same artist as the preceding picture, this work is based on a myth recorded in the 'Kojiki' and 'Nihon shoki'. It shows the dramatic moment at which the serpent Yamata-no-Orochi (here shown as an orthodox dragon), amidst a fierce rainstorm, is about to emerge from the waters of the Hikawa river, while the god, Susanoo stands with his feet planted aggressively apart, holding aloft the sword with which he is about to smite the monster. The great waves, done with the transparent feeling of the Shijo style, give the work a grand sense of movement and the depiction of the dragon under the water is superb. The work is an example of Kyosai's response to the fashion, in the early Meiji period, for pictures on historical or legendary subjects.


  • Bibliography

    • Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 3 108 bibliographic details
    • Clark 1993 17, BW 97 bibliographic details
    • Smith et al 1990 189 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history


    Kyoto National Museum, Kyoto, Japan; 'Commemorating the 120th Memorial of Kawanabe Kyosai'; 8 Apr- 11 May 2008.
    2012 Apr - Jul, France, Musee du Quai Branly, 'Maitres du Desordre'
    2012 Jul-2012 Dec, Kunst Ausstellungshalle der Bundersrepublik, Bonn, Germany, 'Maitres du Desordre'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Associated titles

    • Associated Title: Kojiki 古事記
    • Associated Title: Nihon shoki 日本書紀
  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Jap.Ptg.Add.397 (Japanese Painting Additional Number)
COMPASS Title: Kawanabe Kyosai, Susano'o no Mikoto subduing the eight-headed serpent, a hanging scroll painting


COMPASS Title: Kawanabe Kyosai, Susano'o no Mikoto subduing the eight-headed serpent, a hanging scroll painting

Image description



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Object reference number: JCF7480

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