Chikanobu, Various Daimyo Approaching the Ote Gate of Edo Castle

Toyohara Chikanobu (1838 - 1912) Various Daimyo Approaching the Ote Gate of Edo Castle (Chiyoda Ooku Ohanami), 1894. Oban triptych.

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Chikanobu produced several different series of exquisite triptychs, made to the highest standards of life in and around the Chiyoda Palace in Tokyo.  The Palace itself, also known as Edo Castle, was built in 1457 by the warrior Edo Shigetsugu in what is now the Honmaru and Ninomaru part of the Castle. It later became the seat of the old Tokugawa shogunate who  completed it in 1636.

Chikanobu first made a series of 40 triptychs documenting the lives of women in the Inner Palace before the Meiji Revolution.  None of the figures seems happy or sad, ebullient or upset.  In fact, these imaginary depictions suggest a realm of tranquil harmony, without conflict or illness.  Chikanobu also produced a series of male activities which are significantly more animated. This masterwork of woodblock printing in pristine condition is from that set.

The print commemorates "Day of the Wild Boar" in the 10th month. On this day people of all classes arrived at the outer precinct to eat special rice cakes, light hearths and ovens and other fires for winter and spring use. The castle lit large, bright bonfires in iron baskets hanging at key points in and around the castle and at the gates in the wall at the inner ends of two bridges that cross the outer moat. On a practical level, the bonfires are used to light the way for daimyo domain lords and shogunal officials who live outside the moat as they arrive at around sundown to attend an obligatory celebration in the castle. All daimyo lords and shogunal officials, including those who live inside the outer moat, were required to attend this celebration, during which they symbolically acknowledge their subservience and pledge once more their fealty to the shogun.

Chikanobu realises this scene perfectly. It is a quite unbelievable print tremendously subtle, delicate, smoky and evocative. The pages are alive with fires, horses, smoke and activity, a remarkable composition. A copy of this print is in the British Museum London.

Colour, condition and impression are all fine. Unbacked and unattached. Some slight trimming.

72 x 35 cm.