There was a significant vogue for paintings and prints of ghosts in Japan in the 19th century and many restless spirits of the dead haunt Kabuki plays and public storytelling of that period.

Kyosai's ghost paintings were among those collected by the master storyteller San'yutei Encho, and exhibited each summer at Zensho-an Temple,Tokyo with ghost stories told in front of them. This example is among the most fascinating: blood drips from the ghost's fangs, and her hooded green eyes are creepily embellished with gold. Tugging herself upwards by the hair, she glides up and away with shrieking grimace on an ectoplasmic cloud. By contrast, the calm, almost resigned, expression of the severed head is all the more unsettling. Ghost paintings were traditionally hung at the stifling height of summer when any chill down the spine was welcome relief.

Provenance

Private collection, Switzerland; Mr Patrick Syz.


British Museum

Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG
020 7323 8181
Website

Opening times

Daily, 10am – 5.30pm (Fri until 8.30pm)

Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan