by TAISO YOSHITOSHI
designed wonderful vertical diptychs during the second half of the 1880's.
These prints are regarded as separate works of art. Odd stories
are shown on puzzling pictures. I have acquired the eight most realistic
images for Western eyes.
was at the height of his creative powers, when he conceived these prints.
People regarded him as the number one in ukiyo-e. Many apprentices assisted him.
A publisher organised the different stages. Carvers cut blocks for each
colour. Printers produced the vertical diptych or kakemono (double oban or 9 x 28 inches). The
days of first
publication were events after the long preparations.
a thumbnail is clicked, a new page will be opened. The title, a larger
picture and a description unfold. A 'slide show' of individual prints
begins, if ‘next print’ is clicked.
Shinichi Segi, Yoshitoshi, The Splendid Decadent, New York 1985.
Oshichi burns her house (1888)
girl in a wonderful dress descends from a ladder held by a fireman.
She hopes to meet her lover again.
met the handsome Samon during a previous inferno in 1681. They took
shelter in a temple, fell in love and had a night of passion.
wanted to meet him anew at the temple and set fire to her home in
despair. Her evil deed was exposed. Oshichi was
burned alive and Samon committed suicide out of shame.
The horseman (1885)
forces are driven to the sea during the battle of Ichi no Tani in 1184. The pursuer Naozane makes a
grand entry on the beach. A flock of sparrows flights near his fan.
has challenged a samurai (the red dot at the left). Although he
notices the young age of the battler, he has to kill him anyway. He
feels ashamed and becomes a Buddhist priest as penance.
Inuzuka and Inukai fight atop a pavilion (1888)
heroes chase each other on the roof of Koga Castle. Eventually, they
will fall into the Tone River on their way to new adventures. The
picture looks like a scene from a Kung Fu movie.
boy seizes the giant carp (1885)
Kintaro’s life was threatened by an uncle, his mother took him to
the Hakone mountains. The golden boy grew up in a cave. He became a
great friend of the animals and liked to wrestle with bears. His
strength was phenomenal. One fateful day his mother fell in a pool
and a monstrous carp swallowed her.
has caught the carp. The death of his mother will be revenged.
Genji in the provinces (1885)
shields protect a couple in a lonesome land. Prince Genji (the Japanese Don
Juan) and Lady Tasogare warm each other’s bodies. The closeness
was too exotic for the sensors and publication was prohibited. It
drove up the price of the few produced copies. I notice, man and woman
support each other in hard times.
Wild maned Lin Chu has killed Officer Lu (1886)
Chu had been directed to a far-off army camp as a guard. Officer Lu
was sent to murder him. Fire has been set to the guardhouse as a
diversion. It burns at the background of the prints. Lin Chu was not
killed ‘by accident’, because he had taken shelter from the cold
in the Temple of the Mountain Spirit. He was able to surprise
Officer Lu and kill him. Snow falls on the cruel scene.
tale stems from the Chinese novel Water Margin or Suikoden.
It tells the story of heroic outlaws (circa 1101-26).
Shunkan remains on Devil's Island (1886)
men were exiled to Kikai Island. Two have been pardoned, but Shunkan had
seems to prepare for a dive. Actually, he begs the boatmen and his
friends to ship him as well, but the little boat (in the middle of
the picture) moves toward the
Maple viewing (1887)
and a princess watched the maple trees on an autumn day. The warrior
became sleepy, but he noticed the true nature of the princess just
in time. Her demonic character became apparent from her reflection
in the pool. He drew his sword and killed her, before she could