Chikanobu Yoshu, Court Ladies Playing Koto, Kimono Design
Artist: Chikanobu Yoshu (1838-1912)
Title: Playing the Koto
Series: The Inner Palace of Chiyoda
Publisher: Fukuda Hatsujiro
Size: (R)25.2 x 35.4 (C)23.6 x 35.4 (L)25.3 x 35.3 cm
Original Japanese woodblock print.
In triptychs depicting Court Ladies, Chikanobu focuses on the day to day activities of the women who resided in the secluded palace. As a ‘beauty’ series, the focus is on the women and their clothes, with detailed patterned kimonos being a prominent feature of many of the prints. The ladies of the palace are depicted in a wide range of situations and activities, from writing poetry, to watching the cherry blossom, even to combat training, as it was required for the ladies of a castle to be able to defend their home as a last resort.
The koto is an elongated zither, often with thirteen strings. The strings are plucked using plectrums resembling long, reinforced nails that are attached to the thumb, index and middle finger of the right hand. The gestures used while playing and the sound of the instrument are distinctive and frequently depicted in prints.
|Artist Name||Chikanobu Yoshu|
|Title||Playing the Koto|
|Subject||Beauty & Female, Kimono Design|
|Dimensions||(R)25.2 x 35.4 (C)23.6 x 35.4 (L)25.3 x 35.3 cm|
|Series||Court Ladies of the Chiyoda Palace|
|Publisher||Fukuda Kumajiro, Hatsujiro|
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.