One Hundred Aspects of the Moon: No. 40, The Moon of the Milky Way, 1886
Ink on Paper
13 in. x 8 13/16 in. (330.2 mm x 223.84 mm)
The weaver maid and herdsman: According to tradition the star Vega is a beautiful maiden who loves a herder, the star Altair, but they can only meet once each year on the seventh night of the seventh month. This moment is celebrated in Japan as the Tanabata Festival when young people write love poems to attach to bamboo stalks.
On mat, in pencil: Marer 382. Artist's seal: Yoshitoshi. Description on verso of mat. Signed: Yoshitoshi. Carver: Yamamoto to.
Colored ink woodblock on paper; oban.
Meiji period Japanese color woodblock print with an image of the Herdsboy riding a bull and the Weaver Maiden standing on a cloud.
"Two of the brightest stars in the sky, Vega and Altair, face each other across the Milky Way, which in Japan is called ginga, literally "silver river." In Chinese and Japanese mythology the constellation around Vega symbolises the Weaver Maiden [Shokujo], daughter of the Lord of Heaven, while the constellation Altair symbolizes the Herdsboy [Kengyu]. Every year, on the seventh day of the seventh month [Tanabata Festival], the Weaver Maiden and the Herdsboy cross the Milky Way and meet in the night sky.
Here the two lovers stand on separate banks of cloud. To suggest volume, aread inside the clouds have been printed a light shade of gray. The printing process has flattened the fibers of the paper, emphasizing the texture of the unprinted portions of cloud. A tiny shiny pattern, exquisitely engraved yet barely visible, runs through the matte black borders of Kengyu's outer robe. Because the [Tanabata] festival is based on a Chinese story, the two figures are shown as Chinese deities in elaborate costume rather than as animated young lovers, which heightens the dignity but lessens the charm of the image."
(John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, Seattle: San Francisco Graphic Society, 1992.)
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