Insect parody of a daimyo parade | Yokoyama Seiki (1792-1864) | Japanese painting



Insects in parody of a daimyo procession

Yokoyama Seiki 横山清暉 (1792-1864)

Unframed painting, ink and colour on paper.

Inscription: Seiki 清暉

Seal: Seiki 清暉

Dimensions: 27 cm x 116 cm (10.5” x 45.5”)


This painting is a parody of a daimyo procession using insects to represent the human figures in the daimyo’s retinue. The procession of insects starts with grasshoppers in the lead, followed by wasps and praying mantises. They carry various flowers which they hold aloft in the manner of banners. They are followed in turn by a group of grasshoppers carrying an insect cage, which represents the Daimyo’s palanquin. Behind the palanquin, a suzumushi or bell cricket rides atop a large cricket, providing musical accompaniment for the entourage.

The daimyo processions were part of the sankin kotai system, in which the regional feudal lords were required to spend alternating years residing in Edo (present day Tokyo). By requiring feudal lords not only to travel to Edo every other year, but also maintain lavish residences in both Edo and at home, the shogun greatly limited their personal freedom and placed a severe drain on their financial resources. Despite the expense, however, daimyo often felt obligated to maintain large entourages and lavish traveling conditions in order to maintain impressions of their power and prestige; not only the number of people in one’s entourage, but the number of banners and certain types of baskets and baggage, among other elements of performance and display.

The image of Insects in parody of a daimyo procession originated with the Maruyama-Shijo school, which was founded by Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795) and Matsumura Goshun (1752-1811). The artist here, Yokoyama Seiki (1793-1865), was a leading Maruyama-Shijo school artist of the early and mid 19th century. He was a student of Matsumura Keibun (1779-1843), the youngest brother of Matsumura Goshun.

Nishiyama Hoen (1804-1867) is another well-known student of Matsumura Keibun. Strikingly similar versions of the image by Hoen are held in the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art respectively. The present version by Seiki is painted on paper with natural, fluid brushstrokes and an elevated sense of movement and spontaneity. The Nishiyama Hoen versions, both painted on silk, have been painted with more carefully applied layers of ink and colour.

Works by Yokoyama Seiki can be found in the collection of: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The British Museum, London; The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Brooklyn Museum, New York.