Until Fri, 2nd Jun 2023

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Lot 334 - JAP0522

Buy now for €31,250.00

Lot details

By Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891), signed Keio ni tsuchinoto shunjitsu Zeshin (On a Spring day in the second Year of Keio, Zeshin). With seal Tairyukyo.
Japan, dated 1866

The Emakimono is humorously painted in ink and picked out in pale watercolors on paper with a continuous scene of 88 (!) turtles, all personified in a variety of human activities and pursuits including punting, sumo-wrestling, fishing, playing musical instruments, performing acrobatic feats and drinking sake.

The work is delightfully sketched and loaded with satirical fun, overall a true fruit of native wit. The turtles, each different but altogether a symphony of sublime artistry, owe nothing to China, besides maybe a vague debt to its older artistic tradition. Instead, they are witness to that reaction against the solemnities of Buddhist art which we have noticed so rarely, yet so clearly in the past millennium of Japanese artistic tradition.

Shibata Zeshin's studio was situated on the bank of a river, providing him with ample opportunity to observe nature, and the creatures that inhabited the natural world. Like many painters of the 19th century, he was eclectic in his sources and would have been exposed to traditional styles. However, Zeshin's skill level was such that he could fluidly mix techniques, ideas, and stylistic options, thus painting part of a composition in one manner and including elements of another to add variety and dynamics unheard of at the time.

In the present work, the turtles are executed in the Shijo-manner but imbued with a personal, atmospheric quality and satirical elements, clearly Zeshin’s personal homage and interpretation of the Choju-giga, the world-famous emakimono which pioneered the depiction of frolicking animal-person caricatures, painted in the 12th century, reputedly by the Buddhist monk Toba Sojo.

Choju-jinbutsu-giga (literally "Animal-person Caricatures"), commonly shortened to Choju-giga (literally "Animal Caricatures"), is a famous set of four picture scrolls, belonging to Kozan-ji temple in Kyoto, which dates to the mid-12th century and is credited as the oldest manga in history. The scrolls are now entrusted to the Tokyo National Museum of Japan. The work belongs to the decline of the Fujiwara period, but it expresses in one of its best aspects the artistic spirit of their age.

SIZE 704 x 31 cm

Condition: Remarkably well preserved, with only minor soiling, foxing, creases, traces of use and old wear. Extremely rare in this pristine condition.
Provenance: A continental private collection. Bonhams, London, 10th November 2011, lot 250, sold for GBP 32,450 at the time, which is equivalent to ca. EUR 48,396 in today’s currency after inflation. A noted private collector of noble descent, acquired from the above.

With two wooden storage boxes.


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