Chikanobu, The Priest Mongaku from The Rivals

Toyohara Chikanobu (1838 - 1912)  The Priest Mongaku from The Rivals: A Tale of the Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and Taira, 1885. Oban.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

This very fine series, betrays Chikanobu’s loyalties to the old shogunate on whose side he briefly fought in 1868. This was an illustrated history of the great heroes and battles of the twelfth century Gempei Wars between the rival Minamoto and Taira clans. Chikanobu has spared no expense in the rendering of this series: from the highly decorative printed border of the first edition to the shimmering and sparkling mica and overlayed printing of delicate bokashi shading, this was a very expensive and deluxe series to produce.

This is the first print of the first edition of the series and it shows the Priest Mongaku doing penance beneath the waterfall at Nachi. The legend of this famous priest is told in the play, Nachi-no-Take Chikai no Mongaku, (The Priest Mongaku at the Waterfall of Nachi). Endo Morito, a samurai, became besotted by the beautiful wife of Watanbe Wataru. She rejected his persistent demands until one night when she agreed a rendezvous where Morito was to decapitate her husband. She put herself in his place and Morito, recognising his mistake took holy orders (changing his name to Mongaku) and spent three years enduring the harshest penance, eventually praying beneath the Nachi Falls in the freezing winter. At the point of death, he is rescued by Fudo Myo (the Buddhist deity of fire) and by Kannon, the goddess of compassion. This was a popular theme for ukiyo-e artists and here Chikanobu acknowledges a debt to his old teacher and mentor Kuniyoshi. This deluxe edition differs from the later edition with the plain grey border.

This is a very fine print in pristine condition. It has every sophistication of printing technique - the patterned border, liberal use of mica to enliven the waterfall and extensive bokashi shading. The best print from the series. A second print from the series is available, please enquire here for details.

Published by Tsunashima Kamekichi.

36cm x 24cm.