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Spiders (Japanese: kumo) have also been attributed supernatural shapeshifting powers in Japanese folklore. Tsuchigumo, or “earth spiders,” are believed to grow to monstrous size and use illusion, trickery and shapeshifting to catch large prey, including humans. Here, a monster spider is shown trying to smother the warrior Yorimitsu with a weblike net, a reference to a legend in which Yorimitsu, sick with malaria, confronts a shady figure who tries to kill him in his sleep. He pursues his enemy and discovers that it is a horrendous shapeshifting spider. This print is part of a series by Kuniyoshi that portrays figures from Chinese and Japanese legends. In scenes that parallel chapters of the classic Tale of Genji, the artist plays with the homonym kumo from the title of Chapter 19, Usugumo (“thin clouds”) – kumo (or “gumo”) can mean spiders or clouds.
The work bears the signature - "Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi" - and the artist's seal - "Kiri".
ink and colors on paper
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