Toyonobu Utagawa, Hideyoshi Playing the Sho, Musical Instrument


Artist: Toyonobu Utagawa (1859-1896)
Title: Hideyoshi Playing the Sho
Series: New Biography of Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Date: 1883
Publisher: Matsuki Heikichi
Dimensions: (L) 23.8 x 35.5 (R) 23.9 x 35.5 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

The scene is of the Oda clan's Siege of Tottori in 1581. The siege lasted around two hundred days and is famous for the use of starvation tactics against the allies of the Mōri clan within the castle. At the time a general of the Oda clan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (then known as Hashiba Hideyoshi) is shown with his retainers in sight of Tottori castle. Hideyoshi was aggressive in his assault, erecting towers to surround the castle and buying out rice at extremely high prices in order to successfully cut of the castle's food supply. Hideyoshi is depicted playing the shō, a free reed instrument which originated from China and was often used in the Japanese imperial court music gagaku. The shō is said to resemble the cry of a Phoenix, and its unique assemblage of pipes allows its player to sound a cluster of tones.

Toyonobu Utagawa

Toyonobu was one of the last heirs of the tradition of the Utagawa School. He was the grandson of Kunisada and the son of Kunihisa. His prints centre around the theme of warriors. One of his most successful series is ‘New Selection of the Biography of the Taiko’ (Hideyoshi Toyotomi). This series tell us the story of the ascension of Hideyoshi Toyotomi and his famous vassals.

More Information
Print FormatDiptych
ArtistToyonobu Utagawa
SubjectSamurai & Male
Dimensions(L) 23.8 x 35.5 (R) 23.9 x 35.5 cm
Condition ReportUnapplied pigment on left print. Small spot of white pigment.
SeriesNewly selected history of Toyotomi Hideyoshi