Paul Binnie, Hell Courtesan, Jigoku Dayu, Contemporary Art


Artist: Paul Binnie (1967 – )
Title: Hell Courtesan (Jigoku Dayu)
Published: by the artist
Date: 2014
Edition: 37/100
Dimensions: 47.5 x 33.5 cm

Condition report: Excellent.

Original Japanese woodblock print. 


An old story says that a very beautiful and elegant courtesan lived in the pleasure quarters of old Japan. She was the daughter of a samurai, who was kidnapped by his enemies and was sold to a brothel. She renamed herself as “Jigoku” (hell) because she believed that her misfortune was the result of karma from her previous life. When she suddenly became ill and died, Enma-O, the King Of Hell, stood her before his magical mirror, which shows the true souls of the deceased, and she finally understood how black was her heart. To punish her, the King of Hell made her wear an uchikake (outer-kimono) made of all the souls of hell being tortured by demons, the weight of which was a constant reminder to the courtesan of her wretched fate.


In this print, Paul Binnie shows his own rendition of the famous story of Jigoku Dayu. She is seen here smoking a pipe that she’s holding with a skeleton hand. Her kimono shows Enma-O and his demons in Hell inflicting punishments on sinners. One of the demons is playfully tugging at the left-hand side margin of the print.


The artist’s kanji signature, Bin-ni, is printed with silver mica in the form of a tortured soul’s skull on top left.


The edition number is written in pencil on the bottom margin 37/100, signed Paul Binnie also in pencil and embossed Binnie.

Paul Binnie (1967 - )

Blending traditional methods with a modern style, Paul Binnie is working mostly under the influence of Shin-hanga movement, founded by the publisher Shozaburo Watanabe (1885-1962). Shozaburo was aiming to renew declining Ukiyo-e tradition and break into foreign markets by commissioning new, young artists who would work within the old co-operated system, composed of the publisher, artist, engraver and printers. However, Paul makes his own prints from beginning to the end by himself, as was done by artists of another post-war movement: Sosaku hanga.

He mostly works in several subjects such as kabuki, tattoo, landscape and beauty prints. His original plan had been to stay in Japan less than he actually did but once he started to sell his kabuki prints, he decided to expand his technique more and has created works of this subject until 1998 in Japan. His interest in Japanese tattoo was born when he saw Yakuza, members of the Japanese mafia who traditionally have body tattoos, bathing for the first time in a sento (Japanese-style public bath). He is still working on a series of woodblock prints of this theme. Near the end of 1997, he began to do Japanese landscape prints and these became a huge success.

More Information
Print FormatDai-Oban
ArtistPaul Binnie (1967 - )
SubjectBeauty & Female, Ghosts & Religion
Size47.5 x 33.5 cm
Condition ReportExcellent.