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Utagawa YOSHITORA
(fl. 1850 - 80)
"The killing of a nine-tailed fox in the guise of Tamamo-no-mae"
- preparatory drawing for a woodblock print triptych -

Finished preparatory drawing (hanshita-e) in sumi (black
ink) on thin paper. - With touches of red color; pentimenti.

Signed:                 (unsigned, as usual for a preparatory drawing)
Date:                     1850s
Paper size:            c. 37 x 75 cms / c. 14 5/8" x 29 1/2"

The drawing is in very good condiiton, with the - for such a preparatory
drawing - typical signs from handling; a small paper defect at upper right.

- An extremely rare item in an unusual, cartoon-like style. -




ref. no.: # S-0175
Price:  € 5,900.00
This finished drawing (hanshita-e) for a woodblock print triptych depicts two episodes from legendary events involving of TAMAMO-NO-MAE (1108 - 1123) and ABE NO YASUCHIKA. TAMAMO-NO-MAE, a court lady who won the emperor's affections, was - in reality - an evil fox that had temporarily transformed itself into human form. According to popular legend, to win the heart of the emperor and eventually take over the throne, the fox spirit transformed itself into Tamamo-no-mae, an entrancingly beautiful and sagacious court lady. The emperor was completely captivated and wanted to make her his chief consort. Soon, however, he began to feel ill. No one could identify the cause until ABE NO YASUCHIKA, a court astrologer, revealed that the monarch was stricken by a curse placed on him by the fox. When Tamamo-no-mae's intensions were exposed, she escaped...
This triptych depicts two scenes from the events, devided by a zigzag line as in cartoons. The first (at right) begins in front of the altar in the Emperor's garden. The eveil fox in the guise of Tamamo-no-mae nails a straw puppet onto a tree, while pronouncing incantations to increase the Emperor's illness. A masked samurai (ABE NO SEIMEI) is watching her from behind a tree. The other half of the scene (at left) shows Tamamo being killed by Abe, while the bad spirits of the fox ghost leave her body.
The drawing is done on very thin paper, of the type generally taken for the last version of the drawing intended to be used for the wood carving process. Apparently, this design was never turned into a print, or else the drawing would not have survived. This work dates from Yoshitora's earlier period. - Very rare.

The picture at right (top) shows a gorgeous surimono by Yashima GAKUTEI depicting the evil fox in the guise of Tamamo-no-mae, and a warrior. The surimono is sold,  but, - because of its superb printing quality and color preservation -, is still shown in the ARCHIVE section of our web gallery.

Another depiction of Tamamo-no-Mae - see picture at right (bottom) -, a print by Tsukioka YOSHITOSHI -, is shown in the Kabuki & Legends section of our web gallery.

For a more detailed account of the Tamamo-no-mae legend, see:
- Henry Joly, "Legend in Japanese Art"; Rutland & Tokyo, 1967; pp. 518-19;
- Will H. Edmunds, "Pointers and Clues to the Subjects of Chinese and Japanese Art"; London 1934, and Minkoff reprint, Geneva, 1974; pp. 613-14.



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