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Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892)

Mount Yoshino Midnight-moon: Iga-no Tsubone

Series: 100 Views of the Moon
Medium: Woodblock Print
Date: 1886
Size (H x W): 14.5 x 9.5 (inches)
Publisher: Akiyama Buemon
Seals: Yoshitoshi no In
Signature: Yoshitoshi
Condition: Very fine color and impression, light original album backing, embellished with oxidation and embossing, woodgrain visible.



The ghost of Kiyotaka (a traitor to the emperor who had been ordered to commit seppuku) haunted the Imperial Palace at Yoshino. He terrorized the courtiers until the lady-in-waiting Iga-no Tsubone faced the ghost and convinced him to depart. Yoshitoshi captures the eerie power of the ghost as clawed fingers curl around the cartouche and golden eyes staring madly at the visitor. Tsubone stands tall and unafraid, her long Heian-style hair flowing down her back as autumn leaves fall around her. A strong, fearless woman, she provides a calm to the scene, a voice of reason to counter the ghost’s leering grin. The moon appears to be in eclipse, adding the mystical nature of the scene. 

About the artist

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 nature. 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 woodblock 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.