Collection online

painting / board

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Painting, theatre signboard (e-kanban). Minamoto no Yorimasa with a great bow, killing the nue (a creature with head of monkey, body of badger, tail of serpent and legs of tiger) before the Shishinden palace. Ink, colour and gold on ?hemp. Signed and sealed.

  • Producer name

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1868-1880
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 139 centimetres
    • Width: 3710 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom right, in cartouche
      • Inscription Language

      • Inscription Content

        應需 / 原國歳
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Oju / Hara Kunitoshi
      • Inscription Translation

        Hara Kunitoshi, by special request
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Script

      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom right, in cartouche
      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Transliteration

      • Inscription Comment

        In red.
  • Curator's comments

    Clark 1992

    The warrior chronicles 'Heike monogatari' and 'Gempei seisuiki' both relate how in the fourth month, 1153, the Emperor was disturbed every night by the cries of a bird-like creature and terrible dreams, and the warrior Minamoto no Yorimasa was commanded to discover the cause. As he waited at night with his henchman I no Hayata, a black cloud appeared from the forest at Higashi Sanjo and, praying to Hachiman, Yorimasa let fly an arrow from his great bow. A creature fell out of the sky - and was promptly finished off by I no Hayata with his dagger - the like of which had never been seen before - head of a monkey, body of a badger, tail of a serpent and legs of a tiger. Its cry was like the fabulous monster of the night, the Nue, and so it was identified as such.

    The story of the killing of the Nue (Nue taiji) was adapted as the No play 'Nue' and incorporated by Danjuro II into the Kabuki play 'Yorimasa sambaso' as early as 1708, subsequently performed in many versions. The present painting was clearly intended as a large signboard to advertise such a Kabuki performance, but it has not been possible to link it to a specific performance in the early Meiji era. Since the actors are not identified with crests and the painting was done on cloth rather than paper (to last longer), it was perhaps meant to be used by a travelling company for a number of performances. The faces of the actors are done very much in the style used by the Ukiyo-e print artist Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) during the 1860s and 70s, and it may be that the use here by Kunitoshi of the otherwise unrecorded art surname Hara in his signature expresses a pupil relationship with Kunichika. The background of the Shishinden Palace is painted with the exaggerated sense of perspective habitually used in theatre backdrops. William Anderson must have acquired the painting as virtually new during his time in Japan from 1873 to 1880.

    Anderson, William, 'Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese Paintings in the British Museum'. London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1886, no. 1771.Asahi 1996





  • Bibliography

    • Asahi 1996 101 bibliographic details
    • Clark 1992 167 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • 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).

  • Department


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • Jap.Ptg.1573 (Japanese Painting Number)
Painting, theatre signboard. Slaying the nue creature. Ink, colour and gold on ?hemp.

Painting, theatre signboard. Slaying the nue creature. Ink, colour and gold on ?hemp.

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: JCF1477

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help