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Royalty and Rulers

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Chikanobu Yoshu, Japanese, (1838–1912)
Mirror of Our Country’s Revered Deities and Esteemed Emperors, December 1878
Ink on Paper
14 1/4 in. x 28 1/2 in. (36.2 cm x 72.39 cm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Meiji (Japan, 1869-1912)
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Aoki Endowment for Japanese Arts and Cultures
Accession Number: 2005.1.56

Alternate Title: Honcho haiji kio kagami

The Meiji emperor and empress are sitting in the middle surrounded by Shinto deities and former emperors. By framing the current emperor within an imaginary group of imperial precedents, this work associates the Meiji regime with the Japanese historical legacy in a literal way. The coherency and perpetuity of imperial lineage presented in this image marks the state propaganda to revolutionize public attitude on Japanese nation-state building. Also interesting to notice is that the Meiji emperor is alone in Western-style dress, granting him an odd sense of revolution and advancement. On the other hand, Empress Sh?ken on his right side is wearing a traditional Japanese kimono, following the gender norms in the Meiji period.

Song Han (student, 2016)

Signed: “Yoshu Chikanobu” with red toshidama seal

Woodblock print triptych; colored ink on paper.

Object Description
In the 1870s and 1880s, a number of print artists depicted the imperial lineage for informational and propaganda purposes. Usually the composition showed the 122nd emperor of Japan Mutsuhito (1852-1912, posthumously known as the Meiji Emperor) and his consort Ichijo Haruko (1850-1914, posthumously known as Empress Shoken) in the center sheet of a triptych composition, with dieties and past emperors gathered around.

Here Chikanobu presents the primordial deity Kunitokotachi no mikoto above them, flanked by the two deities of Ise, Yojin at right and Injin at left. The first emperor Jimmu is at far right, holding a bow on which an eagle is alighting. Next to Jimmu are the 117th emperor Go-Sakuramachi (r.1763-1770) and Mutsuhito's father the 121st emperor Komei (r. 1847-1866), below the deities Ninigi no mikoto (also known as Susa-no-o, the Storm God) and his sister Tensho daijin (also known as Amaterasu Omikami) who is holding a mirror, emblem of the sun and one of the sacred treasures of the imperial family. On the other side are the deities Hikohoho demi no mikoto, holding a fishing pole, and his brother Ugayafuki aezu no mikoto with a sword, standing above the 118th emperor Go-Momonozono (r. 1771-1779), the 119th emperor Kokaku (r. 1780-1817) and the 120th emperor Ninko (r. 1817-1846).

Purchased by Prof. Bruce Coats in Japan.

Tsunashima Kamekichi

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