Yoshitoshi, Sagas of Beauty and Bravery - Matsugae Sekinosuke Glowering at a Rat

Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Sagas of Beauty and Bravery (Biyu Suikoden): Matsugae Sekinosuke Glowering at a Rat, 1866. Chuban. 

This unusual series, in chuban format, stems from early in Yoshitoshi’s career. In style as well as subject matter the series owes a huge debt to his teacher Kuniyoshi. The subject of the fifty prints is obvious from the title, that of the Suikoden; the 108 Heroes of the Water Margin. Yoshitoshi, eccentrically though, chooses to use Kuniyoshi's precedent (Kuniyoshi did not complete the series) but then adds a variety of extra characters from legend, stories and folk tales as well as some popular kabuki roles. The series becomes a virtual compendium of imagery and narrative from woodblock art and popular fiction, some of which - confusingly for the viewer - makes little sense at times. Nevertheless, it is a fine series and well regarded; the prints are crisp and tight and well produced and the depictions clearly show the inventiveness that was to follow, later in Yoshitoshi’s career.

This example shows the character Matsugae Sekinosuke glowering at a rat. The rat and the overall composition suggest borrowing from the usual representation of Nikki Danjo. The impression and colour are fine, the condition is good with some scuffing, to the edges especially. There is a copy of the print in the MFA Boston.

Signed Gyokuro Yoshitoshi, published by Oumiya Kyujiro.

17cm x 24cm.