Ghost

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Ghost

Japan, 19th century
Paintings; scrolls
Hanging scroll; ink and silver on silk
Image: 36 3/4 x 14 in. (93.345 x 35.56 cm); Mount: 53 1/4 x 14 in. (135.255 x 35.56 cm)
Gift of the 2009 Japanese Art Acquisitions Committee (M.2009.60)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

A female ghost literally rises out of the painting, entering our space. Her disheveled hair and lack of feet tells us that she is a ghost, come back to haunt the man who wronged her....
A female ghost literally rises out of the painting, entering our space. Her disheveled hair and lack of feet tells us that she is a ghost, come back to haunt the man who wronged her. She is powerful, seductive, and elegant. Bush clover fills the frame around her, indicating that the season is autumn. The mounting is a trompe l'oeil effect: what appear to be separate brocades are actually one piece of silk on which are depicted several textiles drawn in ink and color. Ghost paintings of this type date from the eighteenth century, and were first painted by Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795). Here, Shibata Zeshin (1807-91) , the most famous painter of his time, improves on Okyo by adding the device of the ghost looming out of the picture frame. Zeshin is known to have painted four ghost paintings, and this is considered the finest of the four. Originally exhibited in 1889, this painting has been lost for over one hundred years. Recently rediscovered, this masterpiece is a touchstone of the collection.
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