4/26/12

Mortimer Luddington Menpes, Kiyohime


Private collection

Date: End of the 19th century
Technique: Oil on panel, 46 x 31.7 cm

Menpes toured Japan in 1887 and his Japanese studies were subsequently exhibited in the first of series of successful one-man shows at the Dowdeswell Gallery. The present subject illustrates the doomed romance of Anchin and Kiyohime. /Christie's/

According to Japanese folklore, Kiyohime (or just Kiyo) was the daughter (or in some versions, the widow) of a village headman or landlord named Shōji, on the Hidaka riverbank. The family was wealthy enough to entertain and provide lodging for traveling priests, who often passed by on their way to a shrine famous for ascetic practices.

One day, a handsome visiting priest named Anchin fell in love with a beautiful woman named Kiyohime, but after a time he overcame his passions and refrained from further meetings. Kiyo became furious at the sudden change of heart and pursued him in rage. The priest and Kiyohime met at the edge of the Hidaka river, where the priest asked a boatman to help him to cross the river, but told him not to let her cross with his boat. When Kiyo saw that Anchin was escaping her, she jumped into the river and started to swim after him. While swimming in the torrent of the Hidaka river, she transformed into a large serpent because of her rage. When Anchin saw her coming after him in the form of a huge serpent, he ran into the temple called Dōjō-ji. He asked the priests of Dōjōji for help and they hid him under the bell of temple. However, the serpent smelled him hiding inside the bell and started to coil around it. It banged the bell loudly several times with its tail, then gave a great belch of fire that melted the bell, killing the priest.

Source 1
Source 2

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