Re: Need information about this image

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Posted by Hans Olof Johansson on May 13, 2002 at 09:05:06:

In Reply to: Need information about this image posted by Dario Sevieri on May 11, 2002 at 10:35:58:

The print is described in "Beauty & Violence. Japanese Prints by Yoshitoshi 1839-1892" by Eric van den Ing and Robert Schaap (Havilland Press/Society for Japanese Arts 1992):

Series: Eimei nijhasshku
Twenty-eight famous murders with verse
Dote: 1867 (5)
Size: ban
Signed: lkkaisai Yoshitoshi hitsu
Seal: Kiri seal
Publisher: Kinseid
Block carver: Horik Shimizu Ryz
Keyes: 183.12
Note: accompanying text and haiku written by
Kashi Sannin Ki
Collector's seal: Vever
Collection: Arthur and Donna Levis, USA

The atrocious murder shown in this print is committed by Inada Kyz Shinsuke. It is not quite clear who Shinsuke was, nor is the name of his victim known. Judging from the oblique references in the text and the haiku, Inada Kyz Shinsuke takes revenge on the young woman for having harmed the reputation of his master, a chef de cuisine. The text reads as follows:

Once a flower so proud in high spring
Now so sorrowful in autumn, the moon at Oi,
The sound of an iron rod breaks the dream of a long night;
The wind blows hard in the grasses on this evil day.
A dish of salmon cut in reverse is crimson
A kitchen knife cuts up a melon in mockery -
A requiem of the chopping-board by a henchman's hatred;
It happened in a country house in Oyajuku.

The haiku reads:

When splitting a frogfish (ank)
It is as if you were in a kitchen

The sadistic cruelty of this scene is no doubt difficult to stomach. This series is shown together with their modem equivalents in the book Bloody ukiyo-e in 1866 and 1988 by S. Maruo and K. Hanawa, indicating that the genre existed then and still continues today, as is underlined by the number of sadistic manga sold throughout Japan.

The last two characters of the series title (shku) are ambivalent. As they are written here they mean 'many haiku', but the word shku can also be written with a different second character, which is a Buddhist term meaning 'much distress'. The figure twenty-eight in the series title refers to the twenty-eight days of the Japanese lunar month and to the twenty-eight prints in the series. Yoshitoshi designed this series together with Yoshiiku (1833-1904), his former rival in Kuniyoshi's studio; each artist produced fourteen images. The series was apparently quite popular, since extremely fine and very shoddy impressions are known. Prints from the series, especially in a good condition, are hard to find outside Japan.

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