Personalities of Recent Times: Saigo Takamori with His Dog
(Kinsei jinbutsu shi: Saigo Takamori)
signed Yoshitoshi with artist's seal Taiso, carver's seal Choko Enkatsu in in lower left corner, publisher's information on the left margin, Yamato shinbun sha (Yamato Shinbun Company), dated on the top margin, Meiji nijuichinen nigatsu nijuyonka (Meiji 21 , February 24th)
oban tate-e 14 3/8 by 9 7/8 in., 36.5 by 25.1 cm
This portrait was published as a supplement for issue number 414 for the newspaper Yamato Shimbunsha. Yoshitoshi produced twenty designs for this supplement series that were issued between October 1886 and May 1888. The portraits are of Meiji era personalties including popular kabuki actors, a ranking courtesan, a sumo wrestler, and people from sensational news stories, as well as figures from history that were influential in shaping modern Japan, both long ago and recent, as is the case with this portrait of Saigo Takamori.
Saigo Takamori (1828-1877), popularly known as the 'Last Samurai,' led rebel forces against the Imperial regime during the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. Leading up to and through the early periods of the Meiji Restoration, Takamori remained loyal to the pro-modernization forces. He was a commander in the Second Choshu Expedition in 1866, attempting to subdue a rebellious group of samurai who were resisting efforts at opening trade and modernize the military, and then again fought in the Boshin War of 1868-1869, leading imperialist forces of the new Meiji Regime against a group opposed to the Restoration.
After acting a Meiji bureaucrat for a short time, he retired to his home in Kagoshima, where a group of disenfranchised samurai would soon initiate the rebellion and convince Takamori to be their leader. The rebellion would be crushed between late January and September of 1877. The rebels stood little chance against the far larger and already westernizing military of the Imperial regime. Takamori himself would die at Shiroyama during the final battle of the war. Injured, he is said to have committed seppuku or to have succumbed to his wounds.
Published eleven years after his death, this portrait of Takamori in a rural setting suggests that Yoshitoshi is imagining the warrior in Kagoshima before he undertook the rebellion. Takamori was known to keep several dogs, his favorite being a floppy-eared foreign breed named Tsun. He presents an interesting combination of foreign and traditional fashion: short hair and bushy goatee, a collared button-down shirt with cuffs beneath his kimono and haori, black socks with geta, and completing the ensemble with a katana sword secured by his obi while carrying a gentleman's ivory-handled walking stick.
Roger S. Keyes, Courage and Silence: A Study of the Life and Color Woodblock Prints of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: 1839-1892, 1983, p. 475, series 488, no. 17
Tokyo Metro Library, ref. 212-K001-414
Waseda University Theatre Museum, ref. 401-0382
(inv. no. 10-5328)
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