[Japan]: 19th century.
This is a beautiful collection of 174 nineteenth-century paintings of insects, apparently all by the same skilled artist or artists of the same school, recently mounted in modern archival folders. The artist was clearly inspired by and indebted to Tanshu Kurimoto (1756-1834), the artist and compiler of the famous Risshi Senchufu [1000 Insects Picture Book], completed in 1805. Indeed, several images are direct copies. Some of the sheets have dates, ranging from 1804 to the Meiji period; the earlier dates refer to images created by previous artists. Several of the drawings are copies from illustrations of natural history books and manuscripts of the 18th century.
In Japanese, the word “insects” [chu] encompassed a large class of animals that included insects, arachnids, marine and land invertebrates, and certain species of amphibians and reptiles. The highly skilled artist has depicted with great precision the minutest details of insect morphology in the various stages of the life cycle.
The diversity of animals depicted is enormous: a wide variety of mosquitoes, spiders, bees, horseflies, praying mantises, water beetles, dragonflies, insects that had arrived aboard Dutch ships, beetles, worms, wasps, caterpillars, silkworms, “gecko salamanders,” newts, aphids, cicadas, butterflies and moths, ladybugs, fireflies, crickets, termites, “water bugs,” lizards, ticks, hermaphroditic snails and slugs, diving beetles, “bed bugs,” bats, and a number that we are unable to translate.
In a number of images, the animals’ habitats are shown. In most cases, we learn which region the specimens come from and their local names. On some sheets, the annotator has written the uses of certain insects in pharmacological recipes.
A later owner “cannibalized” a number of images, skillfully excising them from the original sheet and mounting them — but not all of them — on smaller sheets and fixing them adjacent to their source sheet of drawings. Clearly, the later owner felt this allowed the viewer to better concentrate on the individual insect.
In fine condition.
Item ID: 9016