Vegder's Blog

November 17, 2017

Welcome to my web – spiders (蜘蛛) in Japanese art and elsewhere

AS USUAL, I WILL POST IMAGES FIRST
AND ADD TEXT LATER. THAT MEANS –
IF YOU CARE YOU SHOULD COME BACK SOON AND OFTEN!
BUT I WARN YOU, IT IS GOING TO GET A BIT CREEPY.
THANKS!


Yorimitsu killing the Tsuchigumo (土蜘蛛) or Earth Spider
Katsukawa Shun’ei (1762-1819)
Tokyo National Museum


Katsukawa Shuntei (1770-1824) triptych
Ritsumeikan University Library


“Jumping spider looking at me”
Posted at Wikipedia Commons by coniferconifer


Watanabe no Tsuna and Sakata Kintoki playing go in a room with monsters
In the background are Hirai Yasumasa and Minamoto Yorimitsu (Raikō)
by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


The Four Retainers of Raikō and the Monster Candle (四天王化物蝋燭)
Anonymous 1868
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston


Scene from the kabuki dance piece Tsuchigumo
Toyohara Kunichika (豊原国周 1835-1900)

The Kunichika triptych shown above illustrates a scene from a play written by Kawatake Mokuami (1816-93), the playwright who more than anyone else tried to bring the traditional kabuki theater into a new age. His work was based on older kabuki plays, which in turn were based on older Nō theater productions, which themselves were based on much older mythic tales.


19th century fireman’s coat of
Raikō slaying the Earth Spider
Brooklyn Museum


Mizugumo (水蜘蛛) – or spider shoes for walking on water
ca. 1467-1703


Nose ornament – possibly the Salinar culture – Northern Peru
100 BC to 200 AD
Metropolitan Museum of Art

In Gold of the Americas Julie Jones wrote in 2002 that by the late centuries of the 1st millennium BC :

“In Peru the technology appears to have had specific meaning, for long after casting techniques were employed for other metals, gold objects were still chiefly hammered into intricate and complex shapes.

The four spiders “caught” in the delicate web of the ornament shown above illustrate the firm command of technique that existed by the end of the millennium. An elegant, lightweight, airy object, it was made with great control of medium and design, with its delicate parts simply
fused together in a balanced combination of open and opaque areas. The roundness of the spiders is echoed in the shapes of the web, and their compact bodies and four legs are clearly visible. Their tiny fangs appear, too, menacingly, in spite of the simplicity of the creatures’ forms. Spiders had long had a place in Peruvian mythology, and their association with fertility and sacrifice would have been understood by
all ancient viewers of the ornament.”

The curatorial files of the museum add: “Spider imagery occurs in Peruvian art from the middle of the first millennium B.C. onward, suggesting that spiders played a role in early Andean mythology. The spiders’ ability to catch and kill live prey associates them with sacrifice. Information from the sixteenth-century Inca peoples links spiders with rainfall and fertility.”


Gold and silver Moche earflare – 390-450
Metropolitan Museum of Art

In 1998 Deborah Schorsch wrote in “Silver-and-Gold Moche Artifacts from Loma Negra, Peru”:

“Mechanical joins were also used in the manufacture of the frontals from a pair of circular earflares divided between the Metropolitan Museum.. and the National Museum of the American Indian… Each frontal represents a silver spider in the center of a gold web… The spiders are three-dimensional, each having been formed from two raised sheets of silver that were pressure-fitted… The legs are made from four round silver wires, each threaded through a pair of holes on opposite sides of the body… The wires were fitted into rectangular holes in the webs and flattened so as not to slip out, holding the spiders mechanically in place.”


The Spinners, or the Fable of Arachne (ca. 1655-60)
Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599-1660)
Museo Nacional del Prado


L’araignée, elle sourit, les yeux levés (The spider, she smiles, eyes raised) – 1881
Charcoal on paper
Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
Musée d’Orsay


A silver gelatin print of dew on a spider web, ca. 1910
Wilson Alwyn Bentley (American – 1865-1931)
Metropolitan Museum of Art

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