Chikanobu Yoshu, Palace Evacuation, Fire Brigade, Tattoo Design

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Original Japanese woodblock print.

Artist: Chikanobu Yoshu (1838–1912)
Title: Palace Evacuation
Publisher: Egawa Yachizaemon
Date: 1889
Size: (L)35.3 x 23.8 (C)35.4 x 23.7 (R)35.4 x 23.9 cm
Condition: Minor colour running, minor wear and soiling, slightly torn on centre panel, slightly trimmed.

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.

This print shows a palace evacuation during a fire. Court ladies are seen on the right, carrying naginata (long bladed swords), the symbolic weapon of samurai women who trained for self-defence, defence of their children, and for building virtue. The left-hand side shows a group of firemen carrying matoi and rushing to tackle the conflagration. The matoi was a type of flag identifying particular groups of firefighters and they would be put up by the first brigade to respond to a fire outbreak. It signalled other brigades and called them for assistance and was also a way of staking a claim on having saved a property to be able to collect a reward for that later.

Fire brigades were among the groups most likely to have tattoos. They favoured dragon designs, believed to be water creatures who controlled the weather with the hope that dragons would protect them on the job and send rain to extinguish the fires. They also wore padded coats that were soaked in water to make them as fire resistant as possible. Often these garments were beautifully decorated on the lining with designs very similar to popular tattoo patterns.

More Information
Print Format Triptych
Artist Name Chikanobu Yoshu
Title Palace Evacuation
Subject Male & Female, Tattoo
Dimensions (L)35.3 x 23.8 (C)35.4 x 23.7 (R)35.4 x 23.9 cm
Condition Report Minor colour running, minor wear and soiling, slightly torn on centre panel, slightly trimmed.