Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Kōshohei transforming a rock into a sheep


    • currently in research collection

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  • Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum by Janice Katz

    Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum

    Nittō has chosen to illustrate the story of Kōshohei by depicting a very young shepherd boy. We see the moment of the Daoist legend when Kōshohei transforms white rocks in a field into sheep, as in the fan painting by Kunii Ōbun included earlier in this catalogue [see EA1973.90 & EA1973.91]. Here the artist shows one rock beginning to take on certain features of a sheep such as eyes and legs. A fully formed sheep that has just sprung to life is also drawn, and perhaps the two are meant to depict sequential stages of the transformation of the same rock.

    The shepherd boy is a sweet, plump figure who is gently directing the sheep towards the mountain. The image is painted with a very light touch and delicate lines which adds to the sense of sentimentality. It seems not only the sheep, but the boy who needs to be directed as well.

    Hishida Nittō was a little-known artist of the Shijō school active in Kyoto. He studied with Nakajima Raishō (1796-1871) and Tanaka Nikka (d. 1845). From Nikka, Nittō took the first character of his name as well as the gō of Kyūhōdō, which is how he signs name here. His painting style is also very much in keeping with the manner of his teacher Tanaka Nikka.

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