Kaoyo Gozen

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Essays by Yoshitoshi: Kaoyo Gozen
(Ikkai zuihitsu: Kaoyo Gozen)

signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi hitsu, with artist's seal Kai, publisher's seal Dobashi Masadaya han (Masadaya Heikichi of Seiedo), and cyclical date seal Tori-ni (year of the cock [1873], 2nd lunar month)

oban tate-e 14 5/8 by 9 7/8 in., 37 by 25.15 cm

The beauty Lady Kaoyo runs her fingers through her hair while baring herself to a standing mirror. Her story is told in chapter 21 of the 14th-century historical epic Chronicle of Great Peace (Taiheiki). Lord Ko Moronao (d. 1351), a chief retainer of the Shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358), hears of Gozen's great beauty and arranges to see her after a bath. Moronao finds her irresistible, but is faced with the dilemma posed by her husband, En'ya Takasada. In his excitement, he accused En'ya of treason, hoping to win the beauty for himself. The plot proves to be a miscalculation, however, as he was forced to have En'ya and his entire family, including his wife, put to death.

The story of the evil Lord Moronao became familiar in the Edo Period when it was adapted to tell the tragedy of the forty-seven ronin in The Treasury of Loyal Retainers (Chushingura), a fictionalized account based on events from 1701-1703. In order to avoid shogunal censorship, which banned the direct representation of any contemporary events, the Chushingura version of the tale 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').

Yoshitoshi later depicts the Lady Kaoyo in a similar context in his famous series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (Tsuki hyakushi), on a verandah overlooking a moonlit garden. In both compositions, the Lady Kaoyo, who is portrayed as very modest in the kabuki play, is rather unabashedly revealing herself.

References:
Keyes 1983, p. 395, no. 280.5
van den Ing & Schaap 1992, p. 111, no. 23.5
Akita Museum of Modern Art 1999, p. 26, no. 78
Stevenson 2001, no. 37 (re: story)
Iwakiri 2014, p. 62, no. 85

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