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Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
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Stories from the Floating World

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Eastern Flowers of Rough Stories from the Floating World: Ito Ryokaku; Sekiguchi Yataro
(Azuma no nishiki ukiyo kodan: Ito Ryokaku; Sekiguchi Yataro)

signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi hitsu, with artist's seal Kiri, publisher's seal Kinseido (Sanoya Tomigoro of Kinseido), and combined censor and date seal U-kyu, aratame (year of the hare [1867], 9th lunar month, examined)

oban tate-e 14 1/8 by 9 1/2 in., 36 by 24.1 cm

This composition identifies the character as Sekiguchi Yataro from a story retold by Ito Ryokaku. Sekiguchi is depicted fearlessly staring down a group of wolves in the Hakone Mountains of Sagami Province. In this episode, recounted in kabuki theater, he meets the legendary swordsman and strategist Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645) who was the author of The Book of the Five Rings (Go rin no sho), an enormously influential book on tactics and philosophy of war.

The series Eastern Flowers of Rough Stories from the Floating World (Azuma no hana ukiyo kodan) illustrates episodes of stories as paraphrased in the descriptive cartouches by the writer Kanagaki Robun (1829-1894). Robun was the son of a fishmonger who partnered with the artist Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889) to set up shop as a literary subcontractor. He wrote comic fiction and supplied texts for ukiyo-e, and became a frequent contributor to woodblock prints. Published jointly by seven different publishers, the series title includes a pun of the word 'kodan' which phonetically means 'story-telling,' but the first of the two characters is here substituted by one that means 'rough draft' or 'manuscript,' thus emphasizing Robun's abbreviation of the tales. The subjects depicted are from folklore, kabuki theater, and novels, and the names of the storytellers follow the series title in the red oblong cartouche in the shape of a page-turner. Robun's texts are inscribed on the pages of a folded book.

Published:
Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 22

References:
Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 376, no. 202.10
Eric van den Ing & Robert Schaap, Beauty and Violence, 1992, p. 105, no. 20.10
Peter Duus, 'Japan's First Manga Magazine,' in Impressions, no. 21, 1999, pp. 31-32 (re: Robun)
Amy Reigle Newland & Chris Uhlenbeck, Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Fries Collection, 2011, pp. 89-90
Yuriko Iwakiri, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Taiyo 196), 2012, pp. 60, 286

$1,600