Two Carp Leaping Among Waves by Tsukioka Shuei (died 1839). Japanese, mid-late Edo Period
©
Private collection Great Britain
 
This wonderful Japanese tsuitate (single-standing screen) by Tsukioka Shuei (月岡秀栄) of two carp leaping among waves had been badly damaged and was in two halves. Executed using sprinkled gold-leaf, gold paint, sumi (carbon-based ink) and malachite on paper, and measuring  126 x 135cm, it has now been re-joined and completely restored.
 
According to [Chinese] legend, a carp who succeeded in swimming upstream in the Yellow River to leap over a place called the Dragon Gate would be transformed instantly into a mighty dragon. Hence, a leaping carp came to represent good wishes for someone’s success – in particular, success in the governmental civil service examinations. Here a young carp in the waves  at [bottom] seems to gaze in admiration at the huge carp [above] whose gold-tinged scales already resemble those of a dragon. *
 
The painting was probably once situated at the entrance to an official building, perhaps one used for cultural or educational activities. It is signed Tsukioka Shuei (also known as Tsukioka Sessai 月岡雪斎) and carries a seal reading Sessai. Tsukioka Shuei was born in Omi Province, Japan and lived in Osaka and Edo (present-day Tokyo). He was the son and pupil of Tsukioka Settei (月岡雪鼎) and received the ranks of Hokkyō (Bridge of the Law) and then Hōgen (Eye of the Law). Other examples of his work are in the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
 
* Source: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston describing an anonymous 13th century Chinese painting of two leaping carp.