Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1843-1847)Title: Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton SpectreDate: Late ShowaMedium: Woodblock Triptych PrintSize: 15" x 10.5"
This woodblock triptych was conjured by a legendary tale. According to the Honolulu Museum site, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861), was famous for his experimentation with both native and Western styles, as well as for his depiction of history and legends. The scene appearing here is from a popular novel called the Story of Utö Yasutaka, written by Santö Kyöden (1761-1816) in 1807. After gaining magical powers from a mountain hermit, Princess Takiyasha, the legendary daughter of Taira Masakado (10th century), tried to form a conspiracy against her father’s killer. The gigantic skeleton portrayed here was a result of her newfound magical abilities. Kuniyoshi was believed to own a copy of a book that depicted Western anatomical drawings (kaitai shinsho); the skeleton demonstrates Kuniyoshi’s knowledge of anatomy. The panoramic composition lends powerful drama to the macabre image. "Imagination, Power & Humor: The Art of Utagawa Kuniyoshi". This striking image illustrates the story of princess Takiyasha, daughter of warload Taira Masakado who started a rebellion against the court in Kyoto. As the rebellion failed and Masakado subsequently killed, the ghosts of soldiers who had fallen during the rebellion haunted Masakado’s palace at Soma. This print captures the moment when Princess Takiyasha summons these ghosts and turns them into an enormous skeleton whilst Oya Taro Mitsukuni, who is sent by the emperor to hunt down the remaining allies of Masakado, faces fearless with the skeleton and eventually defeats the plotters. In this woodblock print, the 10th century witch Takiyasha summons a skeletal specter in the hope of frightening the hero Mitsukuni. Mitsukuni had come searching for the surviving conspirators of an attempt to establish an Eastern Court in competition with that of the Emperor in Kyoto. Takiyasha was the daughter of the warlord leading this failed effort. After the death of her father, Takiyasha continued living in the ruins of their palace at Soma planning revenge.
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