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Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
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Yoshitoshi Kaoyo Gozen

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Essays by Yoshitoshi: Kaoyo Gozen
(Ikkai zuihitsu: Kaoyo Gozen)

signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi hitsu, with artist's seal Kai, publisher's seal Dobashi Masadaya han (Masadaya Heikichi of Seiedo), and cyclical date seal Tori-ni (year of the cock [1873], 2nd lunar month)

oban tate-e 14 5/8 by 9 7/8 in., 37 by 25.15 cm

The beauty Lady Kaoyo runs her fingers through her hair while baring herself to a large traditional bronze mirror resting on a red lacquer vanity. The size of the mirror initially suggests that it should be a modern looking glass, but the deep purple protective velvet cloth draped over the back indicates that it is subject to oxidation and therefore bronze, attesting to her high rank and considerable wealth. Her story is told in chapter 21 of the 14th-century historical epic Chronicle of Great Peace (Taiheiki). Lord Ko Moronao (d. 1351), a chief retainer of the Shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358), hears of Gozen's great beauty and arranges to see her after a bath. Moronao finds her irresistible, but is faced with the dilemma posed by her husband, En'ya Takasada. In his excitement, he accused En'ya of treason, hoping to win the beauty for himself. The plot proves to be a miscalculation, however, as he was forced to have En'ya and his entire family, including his wife, put to death.

The story of the evil Lord Moronao became familiar in the Edo Period when it was adapted to tell the tragedy of the forty-seven ronin in The Treasury of Loyal Retainers (Chushingura), a fictionalized account based on events from 1701-1703. In order to avoid shogunal censorship, which banned the direct representation of any contemporary events, the Chushingura version of the tale was set in the 14th century, with Moronao taking the role of the main villain. In this context, the wife of En'ya, whose name is not identified in the Taiheiki, is given the name Kaoyo (lit. 'face-world').

Published:
Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 46

References:
Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 395, no. 280.5
Eric van den Ing & Robert Schaap, Beauty and Violence, 1992, p. 111, no. 23.5
Akita Museum of Modern Art, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: The Last Ukiyo-e Artist of Genius, 1999, p. 26, no. 78
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's 100 Aspects of the Moon, 2001, no. 37 (re: story)
Yuriko Iwakiri, Yoshitoshi, 2014, p. 62, no. 85

$1,800