The Painting 'Fujiwara Yasumasa Plays the Flute by Moonlight' Displayed at the Exhibition for the Promotion of Painting in Autumn 1882
(Meiji jugo mizunoe uma kisho Kaiga Kyoshinkai shuppinga Fujiwara Yasumasa gekka roeki)
signed oju Taiso Yoshitoshi sha, with artist's seals Taiso and Yoshitoshi, and publisher's date and address seal Meiji jurokunen, nigatsu, junika; Tokyo Nihonbashi Muromachi Sanchome 9-[ban]chi, shuppanjin Akiyama Buemon (Meiji 16  February 12) of Akiyama Buemon of Kokkeido
oban tate-e triptych 14 1/8 by 28 1/2 in., 36 by 72.4 cm
Fujiwara Yasumasa (Hirai Yasumasa 958-1036) was a Heian period noble warrior who held several governing positions and was renown as a poet and musician. According to lore, he and his brother, Hakamadare Yasusuke, had parted ways when Yasusuke became an outlaw rather than serve under the powerful warrior Raiko (948-1021). This print illustrates a story made famous in various kabuki dramas in which Yasusuke, attempting to rob his brother of his robes, is entranced by Yasumasa's flute playing and leaves his brother unharmed.
This subject was not new to Yoshitoshi. His mentor Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) as well as Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) designed prints based on this scene before Yoshitoshi first approach it in 1868 with a different triptych. Yoshitoshi returned to the subject, albeit in the abbreviated form of a background cartouche within a half-length portrait of a courtesan, in 1879, and then again with a large painting he submitted to the first government Exhibition for the Advancement of National Painting (Naikoku kaiga kyoshinkai) in 1882. After viewing the painting, the publisher Akiyama Buemon commissioned Yoshitoshi to adapt it to a woodblock print format the following year. Five years after designing the triptych illustrated here, Yoshitoshi condensed the scene in a single oban-sheet in his One Hundred Aspects of the Moon series. This version, popularly known as 'The Flute Player Triptych,' is generally considered his greatest masterpiece.
Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 452, no. 455
Shinichi Segi, Yoshitoshi the Splendid Decadent, 1985, foldout frontispiece
Eric van den Ing & Robert Schaap, Beauty and Violence, 1992, pp. 63-64, no. 43
Akita Museum of Modern Art, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: The Last Ukiyo-e Artist of Genius, 1999, p. 17, no. 36
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's 100 Aspects of the Moon, 2001, p. 52, no. 62
Amy Reigle Newland & Chris Uhlenbeck, Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Fries Collection, 2011, pp. 112-113, no. 81
Ota Memorial Museum of Art, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: 120th Memorial Retrospective, 2012, p. 109, no. 160
Worcester Art Museum, accession no. 2004.46 (1882 painting)
(inv. no. 10-5277)
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