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Operating on Guan Yu's Arm

Operating on Guan Yu's Arm

関羽割臂図

1840s

Katsushika Ōi 葛飾応為

(Japanese, c. 1800-after 1857)

Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk

Mounted: 206.7 x 73.1 cm (81 3/8 x 28 3/4 in.); Painting: 140.2 x 68.3 cm (55 3/16 x 26 7/8 in.)

Kelvin Smith Fund 1998.178

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This is the largest surviving painting by the artist.

Description

Ukiyo-e artists’ subject matter extended to popular literature. Katsushika Ōi used color to great effect in her gruesome version of an episode from a 14th-century Chinese novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Ōi portrayed the passage in which legendary 3rd-century military leader Guan Yu undergoes a bone scraping to remove poisons received from an arrow wound. In this sensationalist portrayal, Guan Yu’s attendants cower at the sight of his bloody arm while he remains unflinchingly focused on his game. As a woman, Ōi was an outlier in her era, but her talent was allowed to shine due to collaboration with her father, Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), the famed designer of the print known as The Great Wave.

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