The title of this print can be translated to “Five Festivals,” and refers to the old woman dressed as a nun. The term myobu is a title for a mid-ranking court lady, while Gosechi refers to a series of celebrations held each November at the Imperial palace. In this print, the “Gosechi Lady” plucks the koto, rousing memories of former splendor in the hearts of her audience. As she sits in the ruins of a once grand mansion, it leads to the viewer to wonder if she was at one time a celebrated beauty. Her courtly companions weep as they recall the splendid festivities of bygone days. This print evokes a powerful sense of nostalgia, an emotion keenly felt by Yoshitoshi himself as Japan modernized.
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.