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Tsukioka YOSHITOSHI (月岡芳年)

Description:
Sanpogashitasô Meiji nenkan saikun no fûzoku (Strolling — the appearance of an upper-class wife of the Meiji era: 遊歩がしたそう明治年間妻君之風俗), from the series Fûzoku sanjûnisô (Thirty-two aspects of daily life: 風俗三十二相)
Signature:
Yoshitoshi ga
Seals:
Artist seal: Taiso (大蘇)
Carver Seal: horikô Wada (彫工和田刀)
Publisher:
Tsujiokaya Kamekichi (辻岡屋亀吉); family name Tsunashima Kamekichi (綱島亀吉); firm name Tosendô (島鮮堂); original title page indicates hakkômoto Tosendô ("issued by" or "publisher" Tosendô: 発行元 島鮮堂)
Date:
6/1888
Format:
(H x W)
Oban nishiki-e triptych
38 x 25.5  cm
Impression:
Excellent color, Very good impression from the original edition (three-color cartouche, very good details in the hair, but with the usual tiny weaknesses below the hat) with embossing (karazuri) and burnishing (tsuyazumi); imitation woodgrain (itame mokuhan) in series cartouche.
Condition:
Excellent color, unbacked; very faint vertical fold line through irises on right, two filled pinholes above white collar. 
Price (USD/¥):
$3,950 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry (Ref #YSO01)

Comments:
Background

The artist who is often called the last great master of ukiyo-e is Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年) whose original name was Owariya Yonejirô. He also signed as Taiso Yoshitoshi 大蘇芳年 1839–1892). Highly skilled, imaginative, and innovative, Yoshitoshi worked from the end of the Edo period until more than two decades into the Meiji period over the course of a 40-year career. He witnessed the dying of the old feudal order and the embrace of Western culture and technology, which had a profound effect on Japanese society beginning with the signing of treaties opening up Japan to foreign trade in 1854. One senses this turmoil in much of Yoshitoshi's oeuvre as he sought to maintain previous cultural norms and artistic aims while also assimilating some of the new advances during Meiji "Enlightenment."

For more about this artist, see Tsukioka Yoshitoshi Biography.

Design

Fûzoku sanjûnisô (Thirty-two aspects of daily life: 風俗三十二相) is an important series by Yoshitoshi from the late 1880s, a truly remarkable set of beauties from different social classes. (An alternate translation could be "Thirty-two aspects of customs and manners.") The present design, titled Sanpogashitasô Meiji nenkan saikun no fûzoku (Strolling — the appearance of an upper-class wife of the Meiji era: 遊歩がしたそう明治年間妻君之風俗), was published in June 1888. Here, Yoshitoshi portrays an affluent young woman adorned in the latest Western fashion. She is walking among irises, possibly in the Horikiri Shobuen (Iris Garden at Horikiri: 堀切菖蒲園) in Tokyo. The colorful, eye-catching depiction of Western dress would have aroused some discomfort at a time when conflicts were widespread over the adoption of customs and manners from the West. Although one could argue that Yoshitoshi's "upper-class wife" was but another variant on traditional ukiyo-e prints featuring women wearing the latest fashions, this one brings with it some controversy. It grates against the nostalgic view of Japanese women otherwise presented in the series. Moreover, the modern-day beauty's attire — so brilliantly observed by Yoshitoshi — might not have met with his approval, given his sadness over the passing of the old ways in Japan. Despite all this, the design was reprinted many times and most surviving impressions show some block wear. In fact, sales remained so brisk for this design for so long that by the end of the Meiji period (1912), the publisher Tsunashima hired a block carver named "Toku" to produce a new set of blocks to replace the badly worn originals.

There were four editions of the series: (1) Three-color descriptive title cartouche, with colors varying, such as red-blue-gray, red-yellow-green, red-yellow-blue; impressions range from very crisp to very slightly worn; (2) Two-color descriptive title cartouche, apparently published not long after the first printings, but showing more block wear; (3) Gray-color descriptive title cartouche and substantial block wear; (4) End of Meiji-period completely recarved edition with the original publisher cartouche replaced by the crest of a different publisher.

This design of a Meiji-period wealthy and fashionable beauty has become one of Yoshitoshi's most admired and sought-after prints, and it brings the highest prices of any image from the Fûzoku sanjûnisô series. Our impression is early, from the original blocks, with the three-color title cartouche and minimal block wear. The brown color for the coat represents a slightly later printing from the original edition than the very first pulls from the same blocks for a purple-coat version. The sheet has two margins (top and left), which is the standard issue for this design.

Impressions of this design are in numerous museums worldwide. This is an iconic design that virtually every collector of Yoshitoshi seeks to acquire.

References:

  • Keyes, Roger: The Bizarre Imagery of Yoshitoshi: The Herbert R. Cole Collection. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1980.
  • Keyes, Roger: Courage and Silence. A Study of the Life and Color Woodblock Prints of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892 (vols. 1-2). Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, Dissertation, Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities, 1983.
  • Newland, Amy Reigle: The Hotei Encyclopeida of Japanese Woodblock Prints. Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2005, Vol. 2, pp. 499 and 530.
  • Roberts, Laurance: A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer. Tokyo/New York: Weatherhill, 1976, p.204.
  • Segi, Shinichi: Yoshitoshi: The Splendid Decadent. (Trans. by Alfred Birnbaum) Tokyo/New York: Kodansha, 1985.
  • Stevenson, John: Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon. Redmond, San Francisco Graphic Society, 1992.
  • Stevenson, John: Yoshitoshi's Women: The Print Series Fuzoku Sanjuniso. Avery Press, 1986 (first ed.) and 1995 (rev. ed.).
  • Stevenson, John: Yoshitoshi's Thirty-Six Ghosts. New York: Weatherhill, 1983.
  • Stevenson, John: Yoshitoshi’s Strange Tales. Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2005.
  • van den Ing, Eric and Schaap, Robert: Beauty & Violence: Japanese Prints by Yoshitoshi 1839-1892. Eindhoven: Haviland Press, and Amsterdam: Society for Japanese Arts, 1992.