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. 

japanese woodblock print, contemporary art, hell courtesan, kimono, paul binnie
japanese woodblock print, contemporary art, hell courtesan, kimono, paul binnie japanese woodblock print, contemporary art, hell courtesan, kimono, paul binnie


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

Blending traditional methods with a modern style, Paul Binnie’s work is heavily influenced by the Shin-hanga movement, founded by the publisher Shozaburo Watanabe (1885-1962). Shozaburo aimed 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, Binnie works independently, making prints from beginning to the end, as was done by artists of the post-war Sosaku hanga movement. He works across several different subjects including kabuki, tattoo, landscape and beauty prints. Binnie’s original plan of a short stay in Japan changed once he started to sell his kabuki prints. He decided to expand his technique and remained in Japan creating works of this subject until 1998. 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). Near the end of 1997, he began to expand into Japanese landscape prints, which became a huge success.

More Information
Print FormatDai-Oban
ArtistPaul Binnie
SubjectBeauty & Female, Ghosts & Religion
Dimensions47.5 x 33.5 cm
Condition ReportExcellent.