Yoshitoshi Tsukioka, Tumbling Snow, Chushingura, One Hundred Aspects of the Moon


Artist: Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1839-1892)
Title: Dawn Moon and Tumbling Snow
Series title: One Hundred Aspects of the Moon
Publisher: Akiyama Buemon
Date: 1889
Size: 24.6 x 35.8 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

'One Hundred Aspects of the Moon' is one of Yoshitoshi's most popular series. It contains one hundred woodblock prints depicting various, unrelated figures from Japanese and Chinese culture, with the moon as its unifying theme and exploring a range of tones and emotions for the subjects depicted. Yoshitoshi worked within a traditional art form, yet his drawings incorporated western techniques and were unlike any style that had come before him. The series was begun in 1885 and completed just before the artist's death in 1892.

This design is drawn from 'Chushingura', the famous story known in the West as 'The Forty-seven Ronin'. The story was a constant source of inspiration for woodblock prints throughout the 19th century, showing the creativity of the artists, as well as the relevance of the subject itself, that of seeking justice in a corrupt society.

While preparing for the visit of the Emperor's ambassador in Edo Castle, one of the noblemen, Lord Asano, provoked by the countless insults, drew his sword on the other lord Moronao wounding him considerably. Lord Asano was then sentenced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) for his deed. His property was confiscated and his samurai dismissed, making them ronin, or masterless warriors. Thereafter, the ronin avenged their master by killing the enemy and putting his head on the grave of Lord Asano. The story ends with the honourable death by seppuku of the faithful samurai.

The man portrayed here is Kobayashi Heihachiro, one of Moronao's retainers, fighting for his life and that of his lord in the battle with the ronin. Yoshitoshi seems to indicate that virtue is rarely limited exclusively to one side, breaking convention and focusing on the 'enemy'. The dynamic design is enhanced by the bold colours of Kobayashi's robes, contrasting with the snowy scene. It is said he disguised in a woman's kimono to surprise his attackers and in here, he fights just as bravely as his opponents.

More Information
Print Format Oban (Vertical)
Artist Name Yoshitoshi Tsukioka
Title Dawn Moon and Tumbling Snow
Subject Samurai & Male
Dimensions 24.6 x 35.8 cm
Condition Report Crease on the right margin, slightly trimmed, light soiling.
Series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon

Yoshitoshi Tsukioka

Yoshitoshi Tsukioka was one of the leading figures in ukiyo-e during the Meiji era (1868-1912), and perhaps the greatest ukiyo-e artist among his contemporaries. Yoshitoshi’s style was dynamic and distinctive: he was known for experimentation in style and genre, as well as for his innovative works. No other artist had produced ghost prints or included a range of different subjects in a single series before he did.

The publishing of Yoshitoshi’s most popular, and possibly best, series 'One Hundred Aspects of the Moon' (Tsuki Hyakushi) commenced in 1885. Consisting of 100 prints, this series spanned a wide variety of subjects, such as warrior, animals, ghosts, natural phenomena, beauties and others. The artist’s early tendency for gore and horror was replaced by 100 images of lyricism, calm, spirituality and psychological depth. This series also seemed to mark Yoshitoshi’s artistic independence and departure from a traditional ukiyo-e style. 'Thirty-two Aspects of Customs and Manners' (Fuzoku Sanju Ni So) is the series, in which Yoshitoshi’s new style, as seen in 'One Hundred Aspects', was successfully blended with the traditional ukiyo-e style. The series was published in 1888 and portrays different women. In 1889 another great series, called 'New Forms of Thirty-six Ghosts' (Shinkei Sanju Rokkai) started to be published. In this series, images of apparitions, mostly based on folklore and plays, were depicted powerfully, imaginatively and very beautifully. This was, perhaps, a catharsis for the artist who claimed to have seen ghosts and strongly believed in supernatural beings.