Thumbnail 0
Thumbnail 1

About the work

curationist logoCurationist Object Description
In the most popular version of the Hell Courtesan’s (Jigoku Dayū’s) tale, Jigoku Dayū was working at a brothel when Ikkyū, a famous Zen Buddhist monk, patronized her. Because he broke monastic taboos by eating fish and drinking alcohol, Jigoku Dayū questioned his identity. She sent dancers to tempt him, but when she spied on them she found the monk was dancing with skeletons. Jigoku Dayū thus realized that life is impermanent. After that, she wore kimonos patterned with images of hell to express her spiritual commitment. This silk scroll is one of artist Kawanabe Kyōsai’s several ink paintings of the Hell Courtesan. In this version, her robe bears images of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune and strands of coral rather than the fires of hell. This is an example of mitate-e, a genre of prints that are visual puns on spiritual or literary figures.

Cleveland Museum of Art Object Description

Kawanabe Kyōsai repeated this large-scale composition with variations a number of times. In this version, a famous 15th-century courtesan known for wearing a robe with images of the Buddhist hells stands before a folding screen. Legend has it that she was abducted by bandits, and wore the garment to symbolize her belief that her suffering in her current life was punishment for sins committed in a former life. Here, in a parody depiction of the garment, the courtesan stands in for Benzaiten, the goddess of everything that flows, while the remaining members of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune appear on her outer robe. One of them reports sins to Enma, the King of Hell, who is writing out his ...

Work details

"--" = no data available
= Curationist added metadata(Learn more)

All Works in Curationist’s archives can be reproduced and used freely. How to attribute this Work:


Help us to improve this content!

Let our archivists know if you have something to add.

Save this work.

Start an account to add this work to your personal curated collection.

masonry card

We're just getting started!

Sign Up to receive updates.

Curationist connects people to cultural knowledge from all over the world.