Kobayashi Kiyochika Taro Inari Shrine

Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1847-1915

Taro Inari Shrine in the Asakusa Ricefields
(Asakusa tanbo Taro Inari mae)

signed discreetly at left hidden in the grasses, Kobayashi Kiyochika, the title along the bottom margin, Asakusa tanpo Taro Inari, the date and publication information on the right-hand margin in three sections; top: on todoke Meiji ju - nen - gatsu - ka (registered, Meiji 10 [1877-?], -month - day), followed by the publisher's information, Fukuda Kumajiro located in Hasegawa-cho, and the artist, Gako Kobayashi Kiyochika ga, with his address in Yonezawa-cho, ca. 1879

oban yoko-e 9 3/4 by 14 5/8 in., 24.7 by 37 cm

Originally a private family shrine of a shogunal official dedicated to the Shinto god Inari Okami, the Taro Inari shrine was located in the Asakusa ricefields behind the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters. Inari is one of the principal Shinto gods, represented as male, female, androgynous, or in form of a white fox, and is a god of fertility and harvest, especially rice, and by extension, sake. An ancient god, Inari's popularity surged in the Edo period, particularly in Edo itself. Inari's protection expanded from swordsmiths to blacksmiths and warriors, fishermen and merchants, prostitutes and actors. Inari shrines were worshipped for fulfilling desires, luck, prosperity, and good health. Around 1803 the Taro Inari shrine suddenly became the focus of a popular cult, probably in reaction to some wish-granting miracle, but by the 1870s it had fallen into disrepair and today there is no trace of it whatsoever. Smith points our that this is one of only two designs in Kiyochika's views of Tokyo series in which there are absolutely no figures illustrated, underscoring the pervasive sense of loneliness in the composition.

Although this print appears to be dated Meiji 10 [1877], the gap between Meiji ju (Meiji 10) and nen (year of) indicates it was the publisher's intention to insert another character, in this case 'ni' (2) for 1879, as is found on the impression in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art.

References:
Tokichi Sakai, Kiyochika, The Japan Association for the Preservation of Ukiyo-e, translation by N.S. Gankow, 1969, no. 87
Henry D. Smith II, Kiyo-Chika: Artist of Meiji Japan, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 43, no. 39 (and on history of shrine)
Exhibition of Kobayashi Kiyochika, Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, 1998, p. 31, no. 21
Hideki Kikkawa, Kobayashi Kiyochika: Studies in Light and Shadow of the Westernization of Japan, Seigensha Art Publishing, 2015, p. 76, no. 105
Kobayashi Kiyochika: A Retrospective, Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2016, p. 59, no. 79
Honolulu Museum of Art, object no. 14067
(inv. no. 10-4827)

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