Yoshitoshi, 100 Aspects of the Moon - The Moon of Ogurusu in Yamashiro

Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: The Moon of Ogurusu in Yamashiro, 1886. Oban.

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Yoshitoshi’s late series of The One Hundred Aspects of the Moon is a staggering achievement. The modernity of the idea, the style of his mature drawing and design, the conceptual leaps that he makes with each piece make it the outstanding print series of the second half of the nineteenth century. Considered to be his finest work, it occupied the last seven years of his life, each new print being issued at intervals of a few months. The public interest in the series was intense and made Yoshitoshi, after years of financial hardship, famous and secure. There is a great deal of academic speculation as to the narrative of the series; most of the prints draw upon scenes of Chinese and Japanese history and mythology and each contains an image of the moon, but there is no clear theme and no commentary. Yoshitoshi was however sceptical of the Meiji rush to modernisation and it is generally accepted that the series is a fond reflection of the past. Stylistically the prints are modern, unique and easily recognisable. Yoshitoshi developed a style that owed much to western influence and there is a tension here between what is represented and how it is rendered. The series remains hugely collectible and prices for early editions such as this one remain high.

After assassinating the warlord Oda Nobunaga in 1582, Mitsuhide persuaded the Emperor to confirm him as Shogun. Lacking the strength to retain the position, his forces were routed by the ambitious rival Hideyoshi. Mitsuhide returned in retreat to his home province but he was killed by a group of rebellious peasants and died an ignominious death. The period was one of intense violence and civil disruption. Mitsuhide was killed for economic and not political reasons and the peasant who carried out the act (seen here in the foreground) was later crucified by the now victorious Hideyoshi for an act of gekokujo - 'the low oppressing the high' - as an example to others. Henri Joly has a different account of the end of Mitsuhide (Akechi):

...In 1576 he (Oda Nobunaga) was promoted to the Real Second Rank; in 1577 he defeated the revolt of the Buddhist priests of the Ikko sect in Settsu. He stayed in 1582 at the temple Honnoji, in Kyoto, where he was attacked at night by his own retainer, Akechi Mitsuhide, with a great body of men. He could not resist with the few guards at his disposal, and was stabbed by the spear of an Akechi soldier named Amano Genzaemon.

He was then forty-nine years old; his irritable disposition and severe discipline had estranged him from many of his men, and thus indirectly caused his murder after he had conquered twenty provinces. The Emperor conferred upon him the title of Prime Minister and the second order of the first rank after his death. During his life Nobunaga was nicknamed Baka dono (Lord Fool) by his enemies. It is said of Akechi that his hatred of Nobunaga arose one day when the latter, in a merry mood, caught Akechi's head under his arm and, striking it gently with his fan, told him he would make a drum of it.

Shiganosuke, brother of Akechi Mitsuhide, was a retainer of Hideyoshi. When the latter attacked Akechi, unable to fight his brother and yet not wishing to turn traitor to Taiko Sama, he swam on horseback across Lake Biwa, killed his wife and children, and after setting fire to his palace committed harakiri.

Yoshitoshi shows the peasant with a sickle and bamboo stave with which he will kill Mitsuhide, who is seen approaching in armoured finery on the left of the print.

A superb design, colour, condition and impression are all fine. Blind embossing to the cartouche, burnishing to some areas.

Published by Akiyama Buemon.

35.5 x 24 cm.