Ghost of a Beauty Rising from a Vase with Peony

Utagawa Toyoharu

Utagawa Toyoharu - Ghost of a Beauty Rising from a Vase with Peony
Toyoharu, a founder of the largest school of 19th-century Edo woodcut – the Utagawa School – was trained in Kyoto and Edo. He engaged in painting rather than drawing models for ukiyo-e prints. He was one of the first artists to start experimenting in the early 1770s with European painting, ukiyo-e or “perspective pictures”, but this phase of his work did not last long. It was in the 1770s, the golden era of beauties, that Toyoharu began to work in Edo, his beauties rivalling those by the masters of “brocade pictures”, nishiki-e. This vertical scroll painted in ink and colours on silk features the ghost of a woman dressed in a transparent white kimono, who rises from a vase with a peony blossom, whose petals fall to the table. The table and the background are black, suggesting a dark room or night. The woman’s long hair is loose and flowing and her robe, used as a shroud in Buddhist tradition, is unkempt. It is obviously the jealous ghost of a woman who died of unrequited love and returns to this world to blame and take revenge. This motif was often employed in genre literature and kabuki theatre in a special category of ghost stories. Toyoharu rendered this ghostly theme with painting mastery and decorous expression, which was replaced by bloody naturalism in later 19th-century variants, e.g. in works by Taiso Yoshitoshi and Kawanabe Kyōsai.
measurements: height 101,8 cm
width 27,7 cm
material: Silk
technique: Ink and colour painting
inventory number: Vm 1267
gallery collection: Collection of Asian and African Art