Ishikawa Toyonobu (1711-1785)
Ishikawa Toyonobu (1711-1785)

Castle-toppler (Keisei)

Ishikawa Toyonobu (1711-1785)
Castle-toppler (Keisei)
Signed Ishikawa Shuha Toyonobu zu, sealed Ishikawa uji and Toyonobu; poem with four seals
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
32 7/8 x 12in. (83.5 x 30.5cm.)
Wood box signed by Takeoka Toyota
Takeoka Toyota, Kobe
Kyoto Imperial Museum, "Ukiyoe shubi" (Beauty of ukiyo-e paintings), 1923.4

Kushigata Shunsen Museum, Kushigatacho, Yamanashi, "Ukiyoe no hana - Kenrantaru nikuhitsu ukiyoe no sekai: Nikuhitsu ukiyoe meisakuten" (The flowers of ukiyo-e: The gorgeous world of ukiyo-e paintings), 1995.4.29--6.25

Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Berlin-Dahlem, "Schönheit und Eros: Bilder der Fliessenden Welt von Hokusai, Hiroshige, Utamaro und anderen aus der Sammlung Sumisho, Tokyo," 2008.10.17--2009.1.4

Kokka 356 (1920), p. 271.

Kyoto Imperial Museum, ed., Ukiyoe shubi (Beauty of ukiyo-e paintings) (Kyoto: Kyoto Imperial Museum, 1923), unnumbered.

Yoshida Teruji, ed., Hanga soshi jidai II (Period of the genesis of woodblock prints II), vol. 3 of Ukiyoe taisei (Tokyo: Toho shoin, 1931), p. 172.

Sakato Yaichiro, ed., Sukenobu/Toyonobu, vol. 4 of Ukiyoe taika shusei (Collection of ukiyo-e masters) (Tokyo: Taihokaku shobo, 1932), Ishikawa Toyonobu section, pl. 21.

Sadamura Tadashi, ed., Ukiyoe no hana - Kenrantaru nikuhitsu ukiyoe no sekai: Nikuhitsu ukiyoe meisakuten (The flowers of ukiyo-e: The gorgeous world of ukiyo-e paintings) (Tokyo: Bun'yusha, 1995), pl. 21.

Sale room notice
Publish: Kobayshi Tadashi & Shirakura Yoshihiko eds., Shunga to Nikuhitsu Ukiyoe (Tokyo: Yosensha, 2006), pl.18, p.43

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

The Chinese ballad inscribed on this painting is by Li Yannian (c. 140-87 BCE), a Han-dynasty court musician and the brother of the beautiful Lady Li, an entertainer. He sang her praises before the Emperor Wu. The short verse, written in irregular, five-syllable meter, is a transitional form between a song or ballad (yuefu) and poetry (shi). Burton Watson translates the poem in his Courtier and Commoner in Ancient China: Selections from the History of the Former Han [by Pan Gu] (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974), p. 247:

Beautiful lady in a northern land,
standing alone, none in the world like her,
a single glance and she upsets a city,
a second glance, she upsets the state!
Not that I don't know she upsets states and cities,
but one so lovely you'll never find again!

This led to the emperor meeting the sister and taking her as one of his favorite concubines.

In Edo-period popular culture, keisei (upsets a city, or castle-toppler) and keikoku (upsets the state), were synonyms for courtesan.


More from Japanese and Korean Art

View All
View All