Chikanobu, Stories of Famous Japanese Women - Ueno

Toyohara Chikanobu (1838 - 1912)  Stories of Famous Japanese Women: Ueno, the Wife of Shimizu, 1893. Oban diptych.

Another example, in this dramatic and original print, of the radically changed attitudes towards women in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Chikanobu devoted a whole series of these lavish deluxe diptychs to commemorating  brave, strong, loyal or powerful women. In this fabulous, cinematic print, Chikanobu depicts the woman Ueno who was the wife of Shimizu the provincial governor of Kazusa. Whilst travelling on the road their ox, which was carrying heavy bales of rice, lost its footing on the mountain road and begins to fall over the edge. Ueno with a superhuman effort pulls the creature back onto the road. Two men look on, helpless and astonished.

Bruce Coates in Chikanobu: Modernity and Nostalgia in Japanese Prints, pp. 48-49, discusses the print at length. He concludes that ‘great men have great women behind them’. This is a very western interpretation of the scene. The two men here are far from great and neither is an administrator of a provincial government. The whole series is adulatory of women and is part of a wider trend at the time that saw women take a key role in many aspects of traditional male society. There are many print series of the time that glorify women: Kunichika’s 36 Good and Evil Beauties, Yoshitoshi’s  32 Aspects of Customs and Manners and Kiyochika’s Patterns of Flowers.

This is a great series that is influenced by Yoshitoshi’s series A Selection of Eastern Brocade Pictures  in its colouring, its themes and its format. The print is rare, the more so in this condition.

Colour and impression are fine. Condition is very good, some small marks and scuffs, untrimmed and backed with Japanese album paper.

Published by Takegawa seikichi.

36cm x 47cm.