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Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Japanese, (1797–1861)
Sino-Japanese Parallels to Genji: Usugumo, 1855
Ink and colors on paper
14 5/16 x 9 1/2 in. (36 x 24 cm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Edo (Japan, 1615-1868)
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Aoki Endowment for Japanese Arts and Cultures
Accession Number: 2019.1.8

Alternate Title: Wakan nazorae Genji: Usugumo

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.

- Meher McArthur, January 7, 2021


Wakan Nazorae Genji (Japanese and Chinese comparisons for the chapters of Genji). "Usugumo." War lord Minamoto Yorimitsu (Raiko) draws his sword while the spirit of "Tsuchigumo" (earth spider) casts its net over him.

The work bears the signature - "Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi" - and the artist's seal - "Kiri".

ink and colors on paper


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