Yuten Shonin is an historical character. He studied at Zojoji temple, (where the scene is set) and became influential with the fifth Tokugawa Shogun. He eventually became Abbot at the temple and an important Buddhist scholar. Fudo-Myoo is one of the five “Kings of Wisdom" in Buddhist lore and is often attended by the goddess of mercy, Kannon - pictured here in the right hand sheet. The legend has it that in 1656, when Yuten was still a novice at the temple, the statue of Fudo Myoo came alive and threatened the young Yuten Shonin with his sword of wisdom. Shonin prostrates himself and consumes the sword of wisdom, thereby gaining supernatural wisdom and enlightenment.
Other impressions of this work can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The son of a Tokyo physician, Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (né Kinzaburo Yoshioka) is considered one of the last great masters of ukiyo-e. As a young boy he showed remarkable talent and began to study under the renowned Kuniyoshi at the age of 12. Yoshitoshi also studied under Yosai and was adopted by the Tsukioka family.
As modernization pushed ahead, Yoshitoshi suffered a nervous breakdown in 1872, living in poverty and ceasing all artistic production. A year later, he resumed working; adopting the artist name Taiso and fulfilling his creative potential. 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. On the 9th of June 1892, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 53.
Yoshitoshi’s prints are known for their eerie and imaginative component. He worked in a Japan undergoing rapid change, straddling the domains of the old, feudal systems and the new, modern world. His considerable imagination and originality imbued his prints with a sensitivity and honesty rarely seen in ukiyo-e of this time period. From ghost stories to folktales, graphic violence to the gentle glow of the moon, Yoshitoshi not only offers compositional and technical brilliance, but also unfettered passion.