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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: From the series (Buyû mitate jûnishi) 「武勇見立十二支」Bravery Matched with the Twelve (Zodiac) Signs: Rat and Raigo 「頼豪 子」

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Dates: circa 1840,created
Dimensions: 4.0 in,11.4 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Related links: Freer Sackler Gallery; MFA Boston; Set of 12 at MFA;

Physical description: Raigo (1002-1086) a Buddhist priest of the Miidera temple, vents his fury at the emperor's refusal to build an ordination platform for his temple in recognition of Raigo's successful prayers for the birth of the emperor's son. Bitterly disappointed, Raigo vowed to starve himself to death, and to end the young prince's life as well. The story of Raigo became popular during the Edo period, when its theme of opposition to injustice was recounted in popular literature, kabuki, and prints. Raigo-;here associated with the rat, the first animal in the zodiac cycle-holds an unrolled Buddhist sutra that he transforms into rats through his magical powers. In other versions of the story, Raigo transforms himself into a rat or a colony of rats and continuously devours the temple's precious sutras destroying the very scriptures that once inspired him.

This example was carved and printed ca 2017 by master carver, Kitamura Shoichi. The fine printing combines graded color in a dynamic, swirling composition of exceptional artistry.