Japanese Art:Archives

Japanese Edo Namazu-e Woodblock Print Catfish & Oni
item#: 1073131
price: SOLD
Rare Edo period Japanese namazu-e (earthquake fish picture) woodblock print featuring a giant human-like catfish playing a samisen beside an oni (demon) who is seated casually reading a book. In Japanese mythology, it was believed that giant catfish living underground caused earthquakes with their thrashing movements. A series of namazu-e were published anonymously in Japan shortly after the Ansei earthquake hit Edo (now Tokyo) in 1855. The prints were believed to offer protection against future earthquakes and were purchased as amulets. This image is in very good overall condition with very good color. 14 3/8”V x 10”H. The print is not backed. There is some soiling along the edges and a horizontal and vertical fold mark is faintly evident. Traces of a prior backing remain on the back at the corners. An example of a similar namazu-e featuring a giant catfish as a wandering musician playing a samisen can be found in the on-line collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. According to the V & A, the namazu is singing about what happens to people caught under different circumstances during an earthquake. This print is from a New Orleans collection.

Japanese Edo Namazu-e Woodblock Print Catfish & Oni