Penelope E. Mason, "Jigoku Tayu, A Macabre Theme in Meiji Art," Orientations (January 1990), fig.1
Julia Meech, Rain and Snow: The Umbrella in Japanese Art (New York: Japan Society, 1993), no. 52, p. 95
The stately procession of a courtesan and her attendants on the right screen reveals them in the skeletal form they will assume after death. Symbols of the transience of human existence, the skeletons are Buddhist in inspiration. Legend has it that Jigoku (Hell) was the house name of a courtesan in Takasu-cho, Osaka, who was befriended by the eccentric Zen priest and poet Ikkyu (1394-1481). The iconoclastic Ikkyu, who had a predeliction for finding virtue in the midst of vice, scorned the hypocrisy of his supposedly devout colleagues and indulged himself in sensual pleasures, claiming to have spent ten years in the brothels. On his first encounter with Jigoku, he composed the opening stanza of a linked verse (renga):
Though I had heard
all about "Hell,"
seeing the real thing-
more daunting still!
The Hell Courtesan's beauty was osoroshiki, which can mean "frightening", as in the case of the Buddhist hell, or "daunting", to describe the attractions of this femme fatale. Jigoku, a woman of many talents, immediately improvised the final stanza:
Iki-kuru hito mo
Even the living who draw near
cannot but fall into the abyss! 
Jigoku, cleverly alluding to the men who are ensnared by the beauty of courtesans, thus showed herself already enlightened in a worldly sense. Ikkyu was to direct her on the path to spiritual wisdom.
The story was updated by the popular writer and ukiyo-e artist Santo Kyoden (Kitao Masanobu, 1761-1816) in volume 4 of his 1809 Honcho suibodai zenden "Stories of drunken enlightenment in Japan", a source for many 19th century images of the Hell Courtesan, and was widely popularized when the play Ikkyu jigoku banashi (Ikkyu's tale of hell) by the leading Kabuki dramatist, Kawatake Mokuami (1816-1893), was performed at the Ichimura theater in Tokyo in 1865. 
Jigoku (hell) became a general term for unlicensed prostitutes in the Edo period, and the grotesque possibilities of the association appealed to late-19th-century artists. In an 1889 print Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) depicted a courtesan with scenes of hell on her outer robe, dreaming of a skeletal version of herself, with an attendant holding the skeleton of an umbrella over her head. This image on similar prints and paintings by Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1899) may well have inspired Kokunimasa's witty screen painting.  Here Jigoku and the two young attendants (kamuro) flanking her as well as the apprentice courtesan (shinzo) who follows behind are clothed in skirts of green banana leaves and sashes of white blossoms. The banana leaves are bunched in front to suggest the look of a courtesan's large obi, tied in front. Autumn flowers (another emblem of the evanescence of life) serve as hair ornaments. Two male attendants light their way with paper lanterns, and a third supports the long stick of the umbrella against his back. A few of the ribs of the umbrella have broken. The scene brings to mind the words Ikkyu wrote in 1457 in a work called Gaikotsu (Skeletons), describing his belief that the world is an illusion: "Remember that under the skin you fondle lie the bones, waiting to reveal themselves." 
The courtesan on the right contemplates the scene on the left screen--more examples of the skeletal form she and her companions will assume after death. The eleven skeletons on the left include a figure resting his arms on a fallen grave stone receiving an application of moxa, cautery. Below are two skeletons engaged in a tug of war with a cord passed around the backs of their necks. In another group an acrobatic skeleton balances himself atop a wood grave marker, dancing and gesticulating with a tattered fan to the tune of a shamisen played by a musician seated below. Nearby two skeletons are absorbed in a game of go. These groups on the left screen are borrowed from two pages of a woodblock-printed book of comic scenes by Kyosai, Kyosai Donga, published in 1881. The artist selected and recombined Kyosai's motifs to create a new composition.
Kokunimasa signed his name (Ryu-a, or Willow Frog) on both screens in a witty fashion. On the right screen it appears on one of the paper lanterns in place of the name of the brothel; on the left it appears on the tombstone. After the signature he inscribed his kao or personal mark, which is, appropriately, in the shape of a frog. The screen dates from about 1900.
 Translation and interpretation of the poem are by John Carpenter.
 Genshoku ukiyo-e daihyakka-jiten henshu iinkai, (1980-82), Vol. 4, p. 77 and Vol. 9, fig. 208
 Mason, "Jigoku Tayu, A Macabre Theme in Meiji Art," Orientations (January 1990), pp. 58-63. Little is known about this artist, who is also called Baido Kokunimasa and Ryukei. He is best known for his prints depicting events in the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars. Ryu-a is the name he is said to have adopted when he began to study painting with Iijima Koga (1829-1900).
 Donald Keene, Landscapes and Portraits: Appreciations of Japanese Culture (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1971), p. 240