Chikanobu Yoshu, Celebration of Sanno Festival in June


Artist: Chikanobu Yoshu (1838-1912)
Title: June - Sanno Festival
Series: Customs of Edo in the Twelve Months
Publisher: Yokoyama Ryohachi
Date: 1889
Dimensions: (L) 24.7 x 35.5 (C) 23.3 x 35.5 (R) 24.3 x 35.5 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

A sweeping view of a vibrant and bustling procession on the streets of Tokyo. The occasion is the Sanno Matsuri, a festival which only takes place in even numbered years in June. Centring around the city's important Hie Shrine, the festival celebrations were marked by large scale parades through the heart of the capital. The carnival atmosphere was heightened by the elaborate platforms and floats that coloured the summer streets. An imperial gift from the Chinese emperor of a rare white elephant made the festival particularly grand in 1887. Led by Korean bandsmen marching with continental banners, the ornately robed elephant is guided towards the imperial palace. Appropriately before them is a large float of the Monkey King, an eminent figure of Chinese literature and lore.

Chikanobu Yoshu

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
SubjectMale & Female, Landscapes, Ghosts & Religion, Others
Dimensions(L) 24.7 x 35.5 (C) 23.3 x 35.5 (R) 24.3 x 35.5 cm
Condition ReportSlightly trimmed. Faint stain and transfer of red pigment top of right panel. Some pinholes. Light brown spots top of left panel. Dark pigment on bottom of left panel.