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The Entrance of Asakusa Temple: Taking a Portrait of the Nio Guardians

 

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

The Entrance of Asakusa Temple:

Taking a Portrait of the Nio Guardians

from the series

Collection of Famous Views of Modern Tokyo

by Kawanabe Kyōsai, 1875


IHL Cat. #375

About This Print

Source: Competition and Collaboration: Japanese Prints of the Utagawa School, Laura J. Mueller, Chazen Museum of Art in association with Hotei Publishing, 2007, p. 178-179.

"In this print from the series Famous Views of Modern Tokyo, Kyōsai collaborated with an unknown artist.  The signature in the left side of the upper scene is currently the only clue to his or her identity.1  Kyōsai's contribution on the bottom half of the print shows a comical scene from the entrance at the main hall at Asakusa Temple.  The entrance area at this specific temple that includes a pair of guardian gods called Niō is known as Okuyama.

Kyōsai provides a humorous commentary on a photography studio that opened in this area in 1870.  In Kyōsai's design, a photographer is positioned on a raised platform taking the portrait of one of the guardian gods, who is holding his standard ferocious pose.  The photographer's assistant stands attentively on the ladder below him.  The other god from the pair appears captivated by the scene as he leans over the main hall with his elbows resting on the rooftop and his hands tucked under his chin.  The visitors to the temple stand under the imposing god looking and pointing upward under his short garment worn around his waist.  The upper scene designed by the unknown Karyo, includes an entertaining episode of a Japanese man in Chinese costume playing a traditional Chinese instrument as a gray dog dances on his hind legs to the music.  The setting is the interior of a scholar's study complete with scrolls and brushes for writing and painting."

Perhaps the comic relationship of the two scenes is that of the dog performing for the minstral and the Niō posing/performing for the photographer.


Depictions of Niōs as entities come to life are frequent and the 16th century sculptor Hidari Jingoro was said to be so skilled that he could make his sculptures come to life.  Hidari Jingoro was a favorite character of Kyosai's, as in the below example of the collaborative print he did with Kunisada titled The Actor Nakamura Utaemon IV as the Sculptor Hidari Jingoro Carving a Niō Statue, 1864.2


1 The signature may be that of Toyohara Kunichika's (1835–1900) only known female student Toyohara Chikayoshi.
2
The Art of Kawanabe Kyosai: Demon of Painting, Timothy Clark, British Museum Press, 1993, p. 59.

About The Series "Famous Places of Enlightened Tokyo"

Source: Time Present and Time Past: Images of a Forgotten Master: Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900), by Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing, 1999, p. 40.

Published in 1874-75 by Sawamuraya (Takegawa Seikichi), the series comprises nineteen harimaze-e (a print incorporating various images on one sheet).  Kyōsai contributed a number of images to the series along with Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900), Kunichika's student, Toyohara Chikayoshi, Hiroshige II and Utagawa Yoshitora.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 #375
 Title or Description The Entrance of Asakusa Temple: Taking a Portrait of the Niō Guardians  
「東京開化名勝 浅草奥山 筑波二王尊影相之図」 惺々暁斎、肉亭夏良 大判錦絵 明治七年1
 Artist  Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889)
 Series Collection of Famous Views of Modern Tokyo (also known as Famous Places of Enlightened Tokyo) Tokyo kaika meisho no uchi
 Signature  Seisei Kyōsai and Nikutei Karyō (肉亭夏良)
 Seal  
 Publication Date  1875
 Publisher  Sawamuraya Seikichi (aka Takegawa Seikichi)
 Engraver
 彫銀
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition good - trimmed to image on right margin, not backed
 Genre  ukiyo-e; harimaze-e
 Miscellaneous  
 Format  oban
 H x W Paper
 13 7/8 x 9 1/4 in. (35.2 x 23.5 cm)
 Collections This Print  Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum; Chazen Museum of Art 2004-41; Tokyo Metropolitan Library 035-C002-016
 Reference Literature
 Competition and Collaboration: Japanese Prints of the Utagawa School, Laura J. Mueller, Chazen Museum of Art in association with Hotei Publishing, 2007, p. 178-179, pl. 167.

1 Kanji description from KAWANABE KYOSAI Memorial Museum http://www.ac.auone-net.jp/~ganka/tenji_genzai/sakuhin_asakusaokuyama.htm
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