Yoshitoshi woodblock print

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, (1839-1892)

One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: A glimpse of the moon - Kaoyo
(Tsuki hyakushi: kaimami no tsuki - Kaoyo)

signed Yoshitoshi with artist's seal Taiso, published by Akiyama Buemon, 1886

oban tate-e 13 7/8 by 9 1/2 in., 35.2 by 24.1 cm

This composition is a complicated combination of stories and references. In chapter 21 of the 14th century historical epic Taiheiki ('Chronicle of Great Peace'), Lord Ko no Moronao (d. 1351), a chief retainer of the Shogun Ashikaga no Takauji (1305-1358), hears of the great beauty of the wife of another shogunal official, En'ya Takasada. Moronao arranged to see the beauty after a bath, and even though she was without the feminine trappings of splendid robes and make-up, Moronao found her to be irresistible. In an effort to take her for himself, he accused En'ya of treason, and eventually arranged to have En'ya and his family killed, including his wife.

The story of the evil Moronao became familiar in the Edo Period when it was adapted to tell the tragedy of the forty-seven ronin in the Chushingura ('Treasury of Loyal Retainers'), a fictionalized account based on events from much more recent history, 1701-1703. In order to avoid censorship from the shogunate, the 'Chushingura' version of the tale (from a puppet play and then kabuki) was set in the 14th century, with Moronao taking the role of the main villain. In this context, the wife of En'ya, whose name is not identified in the Taiheiki, is given the name Kaoyo (lit. 'face-world'). It is interesting that in this print Yoshitoshi depicts a beauty with the floor-length hair and robes of a 14th century noblewoman, but identifies her with her Edo-period moniker.

Reference:
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's

One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, 2001, cat. no. 37

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