Art Meets Taboo in the Tradition of Japanese Tattoos
signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi ga, published by Fukushimaya Tashichi, with combined censor and date seal Ne-juni, aratame (year of the rat , 12th lunar month, examined)
oban tate-e 14 3/8 by 10 1/8 in., 36.6 by 25.6 cm
The series A Modern Journey to the West depicts the tales of Sun Wukong (Jp: Songoku), the legendary monkey king of the 16th-century novel Journey to the West (Xiyouji), believed to be written by Wu Cheng'en (1500-1582). The epic tale is based on the life of the monk Xuanzang (602-664; Jp: Genjo), who traveled from China to India (known as the Western Kingdoms in Tang Dynasty China) to retrieve sacred Buddhist scriptures, but is best remembered as the tales of Sun Wukong, Xuanzang's mischievous companion. The texts in the cartouches are attributed to the author Sumida Ryoko (also known as Hosojima Seizo).
In the first chapter of Xiyouji, Sun Wukong is introduced as having been born from a magic stone atop a great mountain where in his youth he made friends with many animals and other monkeys who lived on the mountainside. One day, when he and the other monkeys were bathing in a stream, they grew curious about the water's origin and climbed until they ascended to a great waterfall. Once they reached it, a member of the group suggested that anyone who has the mettle to jump down the waterfall would be made their king. Sun Wukong volunteered, and in doing so set himself on a path to greatness, as foretold in Jenner's translation:
Today he will make his name:
Tomorrow his destiny shall triumph.
He is fated to live here;
As a king he will enter the Immortals' palace.
Series: A Modern Journey to the West
Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art
Publisher: Fukushimaya Tashichi
Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 5
Roger Keyes, Courage and Silence, 1983, p. 355, no. 116.4
Eric van den Ing & Robert Schaap, Beauty and Violence, 1992, p. 11, fig. 3
Akita Museum of Modern Art, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: The Last Ukiyo-e Artist of Genius, 1999, p. 26, no. 70
Collinson Fair, ed., WJF Jenner, trans., Journey to the West, 2005, pp. 5-8
Amy Reigle Newland & Chris Uhlenbeck, Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Fries Collection, 2011, p. 70, no. 24 Robert Schaap, Appendix II in Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Fries Collection, p. 158, no. 14 (illus.)
Yuriko Iwakiri, Yoshitoshi, 2014, p. 20, no. 19
MFA, Boston, accession no. 11.37740
Japanese, 1839-1892, Edo, Japan, based in Japan