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Handscroll; ink and color on paper
Image: 35.3 x 1028.8 cm (13 7/8 x 405 1/16 in.); Overall: 37 x 1067 cm (14 9/16 x 420 1/16 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1953.358
This handscroll shows the second half of an odd tale in which a ne’er-do-well seeks the path to quick fortune and learns the art of musical flatulence. Prior to a major performance, a mentor (and competitor) advises him to consume morning glory seeds, a laxative. Thus, while performing he fouls himself and ends his days in humiliation.
The audacious nature of this story and its presentation—well-animated figures with dialogue adjacent to the appropriate moments of action—create a primitive graphic novel. Japanese visual humor about farting preceded this story, but the satirical, mean-spirited twist in this tale suggests its intent was not merely to be humorous. The story was likely commissioned by court officials who disapproved of common performers rising to high positions, outflanking what was the accepted social order.
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