Diseases & Deformities

Picture scroll on paper, entitled on paper label on silk brocade endpaper at beginning & on label on box “Yamai no soshi ihon ikkan” [“Different Diseases and Deformities, One Scroll”].

17 scenes. Scroll (263 x 6960 mm., including silk brocade endpaper at beginning & endpaper at end), wooden roller. [Japan]: mid- to late Edo.

The tradition of “Yamai no soshi,” or a picture scroll of “diseases and deformities,” has its origins in the late Heian period (794-1185). Over the centuries, copies of the earliest scrolls were made, illustrations of new or different diseases were introduced, and other depictions were removed. By the Edo period, the “Yamai no shoshi” had many variants, sometimes with text and sometimes without, but all depicted a wide variety of conditions of the sick.

The present picture scroll includes 17 paintings of people with serious illnesses. The scenes in this scroll are finely painted and clearly depict a mixture of common people to court ladies. The attendants include Buddhist priests, male and female medical practitioners, and servants.

1. A seated man has a growth on his knee that resembles a face; three observers are laughing at him. This condition (Ch.: ren mian yi) derives from a dermatological disease, occurring in ancient China, that caused skin deformations. Once fully developed, the deformations looked like faces. If left untreated, it was thought that the faces could talk and shout. This disease appears in a number of Chinese folktales.

2. A woman whose back is exposed is suffering, again, from “human face disease.” A doctor is busy heating his surgical tools in preparation to remove the growth. A woman is fanning the coals.

3. Two men — presumably doctors — are observing a woman with a very large humpback, which is exposed.

4. A baby with a very swollen abdomen is being held by its mother, while a woman wearing a white robe is about to pierce the baby’s stomach to drain liquids.

5. A woman with extreme halitosis is seated and attended by two women, both of whom have cloths over their mouths.

6. A woman has an absolutely enormous abdominal growth with leakage draining into a basin. The woman is attended by three other women, one of whom is crying.

7. A woman with a huge growth on her nose, extending up to her forehead, is seated. Two other women are present; one is reading a book of medical instructions, and the other woman is holding rolled paper.

8. A street scene shows a madwoman biting into a male corpse while being observed by four bystanders. Three of them are laughing, finding it amusing.

9. A female medical practitioner performs eye surgery on a man. Blood is running down his face, into a basin. Medicines are placed next to the woman.

10. A reclining man on the street has liquid oozing out of his abdomen. A woman looks on in horror while a dog contemplates licking up the liquid pooling on the street.

11. A Buddhist practitioner is performing breast surgery on a woman, using a knife. Two women are attending.

12. A crazy man is joyously dancing next to a blackened corpse. Two women flee in horror.

13. A doctor is examining a court lady who has an massive growth on her cheek. A lady-in-waiting and a male servant observe.

14. A reclining ill woman is attended by an old woman who is cooking, with a baby (partly obscured due to a burn hole) at her side. An wrinkled old man observes.

15. An old man, unable to walk, is using his wooden geta (wooden sandals) on his hands to move about. Two bystanders observe. This scene is rather defective due to burn holes.

16. A deformed man without a mouth is eating rice by putting it into a hole in his chest. One woman is laughing at him while another woman, a servant, is carrying a kettle of hot water.

17. A woman with two very gangrenous legs is attended by two other women.

In very good condition, preserved in an old wooden box. Our manuscript has some worming at the beginning and some defects (burn holes) to several of the images. Therefore it has been recently been backed and strengthened.

Price: $15,000.00

Item ID: 7756