This sweet print by Yoshitoshi, The Courtesan Miyagino and Her Sister Shionobu (Keisei Miyagino imôto Shinobu), from the series Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety in Imperial Japan (Kôkoku nijûshi kô), published in 1881, has a much darker story than it would seem…
“Miyagino and Shinobu, whose farmer father was murdered by the samurai Shiga, swore to avenge his death. In secret they trained themselves in the martial arts. They then went to the local daimyo and challenged Shiga to a duel, killing him in the fight that followed. The image depicts the meeting of Miyagino and Shinobu in the brothel where Miyagino works. After the death of their father, Shinobu went in search of her sister in Edo. Arriving at the brothel, her country dialect is incomprehensible to the courtesans there, except for Miyagino. After questioning Shinobu, Miyagino discovers they are sisters, hears of their father’s death, and the two plot revenge.”
The Woodblock Print
This oban-sized woodblock in very fine to excellent condition for the age. Beautiful color and detail, clean and intact margins, and a clean verso with good bleed-through.
About the Artist
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (芳年, April 30, 1839 – June 9, 1892) was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist who is widely regarded as one of the last great masters of the traditional woodblock print. He is known for his dynamic and vivid depictions of historical and supernatural subjects, often featuring intense and dramatic compositions.
Yoshitoshi was born in Edo (modern-day Tokyo), Japan, in 1839. He was the son of a samurai, and he began his artistic training as a student of the ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi at a young age. He also studied under other prominent ukiyo-e artists, including Utagawa Kunisada and Toyokuni III. Yoshitoshi’s early works were characterized by a lively and expressive style, featuring scenes from Japanese folklore, theater, and history.
In the 1860s, Yoshitoshi entered a period of artistic maturity, during which he created some of his most iconic works. His prints during this period often featured vivid and dramatic images of ghosts, demons, and historical figures. Yoshitoshi was also known for his innovative use of color, which he used to heighten the emotional impact of his works. His mature works were highly regarded for their technical mastery and artistic vision.
Despite his artistic success, Yoshitoshi faced personal struggles throughout his life. He suffered from depression and anxiety, which were exacerbated by the death of his wife and the decline of the ukiyo-e industry. His mental health struggles are reflected in some of his works, which feature dark and disturbing subject matter. However, his artistic output remained prolific throughout his life.
As modernization pushed ahead following the opening of Japan to the West, Yoshitoshi suffered a nervous breakdown in 1872, living in poverty and ceasing all artistic production. In the 1880s, Yoshitoshi suffered a breakdown and spent some time in a mental institution. He returned to work after his release, adopting the artist name Taiso. In 1885, he began one of his most acclaimed series, “100 Views of the Moon”. In the spring of 1892, he suffered his final mental breakdown and was committed to the Sugamo Asylum; he died shortly of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 53.
- “Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Freis Collection” by Chris Uhlenbeck and Amy Reigle Newland
- “Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon” by John Stevenson
- “Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: A Selection of One Hundred Prints from One Hundred Aspects of the Moon” by Jack Hunter