Height: 371.000 mm
Width: 251.000 mm
Asia JA 1989.11-1.01.1-3
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Yuki ('Snow'), a colour woodblock print
Meiji era, August AD 1890
From the series 'Snow, Moon, and Flowers' (Setsugekka no uchi)
The priest Iwakura no Sōgen became infatuated with Irokotōhime, a beautiful courtesan of the ōtomo family. He broke his vow of chastity, even though he knew it would mean expulsion from his temple. But tragedy struck when Irokotōhime died and he was left alone. This triptych shows the actor Onoe Baikō V (Onoe Kikugorō V, 1844-1905) in the role of Sōgen in the play Hanafubuki. The story was first adapted to the Kabuki theatre during the 1670s, and it developed into several different versions, sometimes incorporating elements from other tales.
This work is one of a series showing half-length portraits of actors depicted across all three sheets of the triptych format, a genre which was popular at the time. Yoshitoshi (1839-92) had met and become friends with the subjects of these works, Onoe Baikō V and Ichikawa Danjurō IX (1839-1903), about thirty years previously: the two actors dominated the Kabuki stage during the Meiji era (1868-1912). The draughtsmanship on the triptych is outstanding, with bold but simple compositions and an intensity of emotional expression. The printing, too, is done to a very high quality.
Yoshitoshi is regarded as one of the last true woodblock artists in Japan at a time when this art was dying out, and his works are renowned for their imagination and drama. The cartouches detail the title, the actor, and the character portrayed. The signature beneath reads 'Yoshitoshi ga' ('Picture by Yoshitoshi') and the seal reads 'Yoshitoshi'.