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Mirror of the Ages: Kenmu (1334-35, 1336-37)

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Chikanobu Yoshu, Japanese, (1838–1912)
Mirror of the Ages: Kenmu (1334-35, 1336-37), 2/1/1897
Ink on Paper
12 7/8 in. x 8 5/16 in. (327.03 mm x 211.14 mm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Meiji (Japan, 1869-1912)
Credit Line: Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Ballard
Accession Number: 93.6.126

Alternate Title: Jidai kagami: Kenmu no koro

Signed: “Yoshu Chikanobu” with red toshidama seal

Colored ink on paper; wood-block print.

Object Description
Dressed in a black lacquered hat with a broad brim and a delicate silk gauze veil, this woman appears to be in a traveling outfit. Perhaps she is supposed to be a court lady traveling between the Southern Court of emperor GoDaigo (1288-1339) in Yoshino (he used the designation Kenmu for the years 1334-1335) to the Northern Court of emperor Komyo in Kyoto (who used Kenmu for the years 1336-1337). The political implications of starting this print series with an unusual "era name" (nengo) has not been determined, but Chikanobu seems to be making a deliberate point here. The Meiji emperor was particularly interested in GoDaigo, who had tried to return political authority and direct rule to the emperor.

The high quality of the series is evident: her veil has been blind-printed in a delicate grid, and the inner white collar of her robe has a different blind printed pattern. Chikanobu shows an intense turquoise blue on part of the hat strap next to her face, but other parts of these straps are a muted blue, as if seen through the gauze. The garments and accessories throughout the Jidai kagami series are beautifully done.

For more information, please refer to the Chikanobu exhibition catalogue.

Matsuki Heikichi

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