Toshinobu: Mongaku Doing Penance Beneath Nachi Waterfall

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Artist: Yamazaki Toshinobu (1857-1886)
Title: Mongaku Doing Penance Beneath Nachi Waterfall

Series: A Brief History of Japan in Pictures (Nihon ryakushi zu)
Date: 1878

Mongaku’s expression is one of intense inward focus as he bears the austerity of the icy Nachi waterfall crashing down on him, the spray and roiling chaos of the base of the waterfall almost completely subsuming him. We see the brilliant blue curtains of water in the background and the explosion of froth enveloping all but his face, emphasizing how it is only his force of will that can allow him to remain in place against such an enormous display of nature’s power. The story of Mongaku was a popular subject of kabuki plays, and everyone would have been familiar with the scene. Mongaku subjected himself to a long period beneath the waterfall as penance for killing Kesa Gozen; she honorably sacrificed herself to his sword instead of giving in to his advances. Mongaku was eventually rescued by the  compassion of a Buddhist deity. Kuniyoshi and Yoshitoshi designed splendid compositions of this subject, and Toshinobu was a pupil of Yoshitoshi. 

Condition: Excellent impression and color. Very good condition. Some stains and yellowing and two areas where the white was splotched. There is hand-applied gofun sprinkled all over the design. Untrimmed and unbacked.

Publisher: Kanei Heizaburo
Dimensions: ôban (35 x 24.4 cm)
Signature: Oju Toshinobu