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Exceptional Edo p. Japanese Screen, Demon War
An exceedingly rare set of four dramatic paintings divided into segments depicting a variety of battle scenes and supernatural phenomena, each heavy pigment on paper canvas mounted on one of four panels of a gold screen bordered in mulberry. The scenes appear to comprise a fragment of the tale of Daikozan (Oeyama), a Kyoto tale where in a powerful demon was lured to drink, then cut to pieces in his stupor. The screen itself is 20th century; however the paintings would date from the mid Edo. On the far right sword bearing men, priests and women run from monsters with giant heads while a cloud roiling with demonic figures bears down on the scene. A tanuki with the head of a woman can also be found here. Below women perform dance on the balcony of a palace for a long nosed tengu attracting a crowd of onlookers. The second panel is divided into four scenes of women reading a hand scroll to the same tengu from the first panel hidden behind a bamboo fence. Below we see him again seated outside a room awaiting audience with divine figures. Below this he is throttling a sword bearing soldier, a ghostly lute player on the left, and a raucous battle on the steps. On panel three the battle rages. Men hack away at each other while a head is presented indoors, and a man and demon appear ready to draw swords over the decapitated corpse. Below gory warfare rages, samurai and demon fighting indiscriminately. In the last scene a flock of birds attack one fellow, while heads topple hither and yon. The paintings were likely originally part of a larger screen, which have been cut down over time from re-mounting. The fantastic screen measures 107 inches by five feet (272 x 153 cm). There is some loss of paint; and the paintings, due to great age, are somewhat delicate.