Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Blowfish and spring onion


    • currently in research collection

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  • Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum by Janice Katz

    Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum

    Little is known of the artist Ganhi (Hirowatari Gi or Koshū). In the Koga bikō he is mentioned as a pupil of Kumashiro Yūhi from whom he takes the character ‘hi’ in his name [Asaoka, Zotei koga bikō, 2177]. Thus he was part of the Chinese artist Shen Nanpin's legacy which thrived in Nagasaki in the eighteenth century. Beginning with Hirowatari Ikko (1644-1702) who was to gain the most prominence among them, a few generations of artists in Nagasaki carried the surname Hirowatari. According to records in the Chōshoji temple, Ganhi and his ancestors held the local post of Chinese paintings connoisseur (kara-e mekiki) [Chōshōji kakochō, included in Kyoto National Museum, Nagasaki-ha Shasei Nanshū meiga sen (Kyoto: Benridō, 1939), 116-7].

    This delightful fan painting rendered in sparse colours focuses on the satirical appearance of this rather odd subject matter. The ankō, also known as the frogfish for obvious reasons, totters clumsily, bulbous stomach-side up, awaiting his fate. This unusual-looking fish is actually a delicacy in Japan. Here it is paired with a spring onion, no doubt both are soon to be ingredients in a special, celebratory dish.

    The Nagasaki school’s founder, Shen Nanpin, stayed in Japan for only two years, though his impact on Edo period painting throughout Japan was profound. He excelled in realistic images of birds, animals and flowers, though the compositions were often highly decorative. The abbreviated description of the fish and infusion of the comic into this painting are not characteristic of the stylistic legacy Ganhi inherited.

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