Chikanobu Yoshu, Kabuki, Battle of Sekigahara, Warrior


Artist: Chikanobu Yoshu (1838-1912)
Title: The Battle of Sekigahara
Publisher: Yorozuya Magobei
Date: 1881
Dimensions: (L) 24.5 x 35.5 (C) 24.1 x 35.2 (R) 24.7 x 35.6 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print. 


Actors of the kabuki theatre don samurai armour, as they recreate the seminal Battle of Sekigahara (1600). The battle took place between two warriors, Ishida Mitsunari (1559-1600) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616). After a particularly tumultuous century of warfare, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) had managed to consolidate his military reign for a brief period. Yet his death reopened the power vacuum, setting old rivalries aflame once again. Both generals engaged in a battle of subterfuge and rapid tactical thinking, which, with various betrayals on both sides, ended up in Ieyasu's favour, winning him the war and establishing his dynasty. Chikanobu's triptych in the yakusha-e style shows Mitsunari on the right panel wearing a kabuto helm adorned with an oni maedate, as the Battle of Sekigahara rages on behind him.

Chikanobu Yoshu (1838 - 1912)

Chikanobu Yoshu was a woodblock print artist from the end of the 19th century. He was one of the most prolific woodblock print artists of this period, working with both traditional subjects, such as actors, courtesans, scenes of famous sites, beautiful women, and with topical subjects, such as war and rebellion. Born into a samurai family in Echigo province, Chikanobu became one of the final, great, ukiyo-e artists aiming to preserve the traditional culture of Japan at a time when the country was becoming rapidly modernised. As a child, he studied Kano style painting. When he moved to Tokyo he studied print design first at the studio of Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1797-1861) and later on at that of Kunisada I Utagawa (1786–1865).

The end of the Edo period (1603-1868) and the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) brought a rapid influx of Western values and technologies that influenced many artists of this time, including Chikanobu. As a result, he developed a distinctive personal style blending a close adherence to the traditional technique of ukiyo-e, and occasional western imagery. He designed prints rooted in traditional myths and legends but also kaika-e, prints that documented Japan's modernization, the Emperor Meiji and the imperial court's promotion of that modernization.

Even though Chikanobu’s prints showcase a variety of subjects, due to the wealth of his beauties and court ladies works, it is believed that the customs and events of the imperial family were his favourite subject. Out of these prints, the most well-known series is probably ‘The Inner Palace of Chiyoda’ (‘Chiyoda no O-oku’), which depicts the court life in the palace of the Tokugawa shogunate. Influenced by the rapid changes happening in Japanese society following the Meiji restoration, Chikanobu also produced beauty prints showing ladies in Western clothing, as opposed to kimono. Chikanobu's last works in the early years of the 20th century featured brave samurai and heroic women of Japan's past, models of appropriate behaviour for the future.

More Information
Print FormatTriptych
ArtistChikanobu Yoshu (1838 - 1912)
SubjectSamurai & Male, Kabuki Theatre
Size(L) 24.5 x 35.5 (C) 24.1 x 35.2 (R) 24.7 x 35.6 cm
Condition ReportWormholes restored. Some pinholes.
publisherYorozuya Magobei:1865-1919