Yoshitaki, Shini-e of Bando Jutaro and Oni Demon

Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841 - 1899) Shini-e of Bando Jutaro and Oni Demon, 1873. Chuban.

A fine demoniacal shini-e by the Osaka School artist Utagawa Yoshitaki. The print is rich in colour, and deeply expressive and moving. The shini-e were memorial prints commemorating the passing of well known figures - in this case the kabuki actor Bando Jutaro II who died in September 1873. Little is known about the subject; his career is overshadowed by his brother Bando Jusaburo II. We see him distractedly looking into the middle distance; he holds a buddhist rosary in one hand and casually pushes aside a terrifying oni demon with the other.

The oni were much feared spirit demons who were charged with guarding the gates of Buddhist hell and were believed to be cruel and malicious devils, causing destruction and misery wherever they appeared. The oni are pictured usually as red, often carrying an iron club and always with horns. In the night-time distance we see the theatres in silhouette and a death poem celebrating Jutaro’s life.

One interpretation of the scene could be Jutaro being dragged into hell as punishment for a dissolute life. It is really only his expression that Yoshitaki has drawn with such economy that tells us how unperturbed he is by the devil at his left and the awakening knowledge of salvation shown in the slight look of surprise upon his face.

This is a rare shini-e, rarer still because of the very explicit drawing of the oni. The colour is superb, rich and bright and unfaded, the impression and condition are both very fine. An unusual and very fine Osaka print.

27cm x 19cm