Preparatory drawing for a fan with scene from the Tale of Shuten Doji

Artist: Kawanabe Kyōsai 河鍋暁斎 (1831-1889)
Historical period(s)
Late Edo period, 1831-1889
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 17.7 x 49.2 cm (6 15/16 x 19 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


fan, Japan, Late Edo period (1716 - 1868), Shuten Doji, Tale of Shuten Doji
Provenance research underway.

The Tale of Shuten Doji has long been popular in Japan; the earliest-known illustrated version of this tale dates to the fourteenth century. Minamoto no Yorimitsu (948-1021), a historical figure of great martial prowess, was transformed in popular literature into a legendary hero who rescued the realm from demonic forces. Shuten Doji, a monster who lived southwest of Kyoto, terrorized the population, dining on locals and holding young maidens captive. With divine assistance and various means of subterfuge, Yorimitsu beheaded the ogre and returned the region to tranquility.

Kyosai's interest in the narrative format and his careful connoisseurship of ancient works of art are evident in his paintings and sketchbooks. Riddled with macabre humor and images of the grotesque, his own paintings catered to the tastes of late Edo (1615-1868) and early Meiji (1868-1912) audiences.

Published References
  • , vol. 11 Washington and Ann Arbor. pp. 27-38.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.