Yoshitoshi

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Fujiwara Yasumasa Plays the Flute by Moonlight
(Fujiwara Yasumasa Gekka Roteki)

a moonlit view of a flute player on a windy night, to his right, a bandit approaches, concealed by the bending grasses, preparing to draw his sword; the dark stormy clouds were hand-applied by the printer; each sheet signed zu oju Taiso Yoshitoshi sha, with artist's seals Taiso and Yoshitoshi, printer's seal Suri Tsune, published by Akiyama Buemon, 1883

oban tate-e triptych 14 5/8 by 28 1/2 in., 37.2 by 72.5 cm

Fujiwara no Yasumasa (958-1036) was a famous musician at the Heian court. He and his brother, Kidomaru, had parted ways when Kidomaru became an outlaw rather than serve under the powerful warrior Raiko. This print illustrates an episode made famous in a kabuki play where Kidomaru attempts to rob his brother of his brocade robes, but is stopped, entranced by Yasumasa's flute playing.

The full title of this triptych is: Meiji jugo mizunoe-uma kishu kaiga kyoshinkai shuppinga Fujiwara no Yasumasa gekka roteki zu (A picture shown at the Exhibition for the Advancement of Painting, autumn, 1882 Fujiwara no Yasumasa plays the flute by moonlight). After viewing the painting at the exhibition, the publisher Akiyama Buemon commissioned this print the following year.

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; he returns to the subject in an abbreviated form in a background cartouche of a half-length portrait of a courtesan in 1879; and then with the painting mentioned previously which he submitted to the government exhibition Naikoku kaiga kyoshinkai in 1882 following with this triptych in 1883; and finally in an oban from his One Hundred Aspects of the Moon series in 1888. This version, popularly known as The Flute Player Triptych, is generally considered Yoshitoshi's masterpiece.

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