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Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
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The Heavy Basket

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

New Forms of Thirty-Six Ghosts: The Heavy Basket
(Shingata sanjurokkaisen: Omoi tsuzura)

signed Yoshitoshi, with artist's seal Yoshitoshi, carved by Chokuzan, and publisher's date and address seal Meiji nijugonen, -gatsu, -ka; Sasaki Toyokichi, Tokyo, Kyobashi-ku, Owaricho 2-1 (Meiji 25 [1892]) of Sasaki Toyokichi

oban tate-e 14 3/8 by 9 7/8 in., 36.5 by 25 cm

This composition, depicting a procession of demons and ghouls rising from a wicker basket towards an unenviable old woman, is taken from a fable called The Tongue-Cut Sparrow (Shita-kiri suzume). The tale regards a spiteful old woman named Ara, her neighbor, a kind old man, named Nasakeji, and a small sparrow named Bidori.

Nasakeji had a fondness for sparrows, and in particular loved and cared for the young Bidori. However, one day when Nasakeji was out, Bidori pecked at some of Ara's rice paste, for which she cut out his tongue. In fear and pain the sparrow fled, never to return to the village. Nasakeji searched far and wide for Bidori, until one day they were reunited at the sparrow's forest home. Bidori introduced the man to his family, and shared with him a humble feast. When it was time for Nasakeji to leave, Bidori insisted that he take one of two baskets as a gift. Weighing the two, the man decided to take the smaller, lighter one, and set off homeward. When he returned home and opened the basket, Nasakeji was amazed to find it brimming with gold and jewels. Ara, ever greedy, raced to the forest and insisted the sparrow give her the same choice of baskets. When Bidori calmly obliged, she took the heavier of the two, but was disappointed to discover that it was filled not with treasure but a parade of demons.

References:
Keyes 1983, p. 491, no. 509.36
Stevenson 1983, p. 90, no. 36
Segi 1985, p. 77, no. 94.31
van den Ing & Schaap 1992, p. 143, no. 65.36
Akita Museum of Modern Art 1999, p. 37, no. 133
Stevenson 2005, p. 154, no. 36

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