Ogata Shūma Hiroyuki from the series One of the Eight Hundred Heroes of the Water Margin of Japan (Honchō Suikoden gōketsu happyakunin no hitori)

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川国芳 (1798-1861)
Publisher: Kagaya Kichiemon (Seiseidō) 加賀屋吉右衛門 ((active ca. 1815 – 1850))
Historical period(s)
Edo period, ca. 1830
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 37.6 x 25.7 cm (14 13/16 x 10 1/8 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

Anne van Biema collection, Edo period (1615 - 1868), hero, Japan, snake, ukiyo-e, warrior
Provenance research underway.

Following the great success of his "popular" series based on the one hundred eight heroes of the Chinese narrative, The Water Margin, Kuniyoshi embarked on a series titled Eight Hundred Heroes of a Japanese Water Margin, All Told. The theme was so popular that he designed eleven series on various Water Margin themes during his lifetime, a reflection of the popularity of the stories themselves and of his arresting images. Here the hero popularly known as Jiraiya, who possessed supernatural powers and could control frogs and snails, kills a snake because it was terrorizing his friends the frogs. He uses a large firearm aimed at the skull of the snake who coils menacingly toward the viewer as if to emerge from the picture. Stories of Jiraiya, a popular character in kabuki, were so well known that they became the basis for a game similar to hammer, paper, and scissors, where on the count of three, players formed their hands into snake, frog, or snail. According to the rules of the game, the snake eats the frog, the frog eats the snail, and the snail poisons the snake.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, Milo Cleveland Beach, The Honorable and Mrs. William Leonhart. Yokohama: Prints From 19th Century Japan. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 76.
  • David Waterhouse. Review of Masterful Illusions Publication. no. 25. p. 139, fig. 2.
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 76, pp. 202-3, 206-7.
  • Andreas Marks. Japanese Woodblock Prints (1680–1938). Köln, Germany. p. 344.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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