Yoshitoshi 芳年: The Moon and the Abandoned Old Woman (Sold)

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Artist: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) 芳年
Title: The Moon and the Abandoned Old Woman
Series: One Hundred Aspects of the Moon 月百姿
Date: 1889

Here a poor peasant carries an old woman up a mountain, both of their faces determined but not seemingly unhappy. In old Japan there was a tradition of abandoning old people who could no longer be cared for in poor communities, although it seems difficult to square with the Confucian values shown in many ukiyo-e prints. Perhaps this is taken from the Noh play “Obasuteyama” (”The Mountain where Old Women are Abandoned”), where three pilgrims meet the spirit of an old woman who was left to die. She performs a dance and demonstrates her faith in the wisdom of the Buddha. Here the heartbreak of the scene has been softened by the emphasis on the old pine tree which dominates the image, its single branch also seeming to show its age and poor condition. The tradition of self-sacrifice by women in this culture was so strong and so lifelong that this woman does not seem embittered in the least. 

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: ôban 35.6 x 24 cm
Publisher: Akiyama Buemon
Literature: John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (San Francisco: San Francisco Graphic Society, 1992), number 97. See British Museum, Portland Art Museum.
Signature: Yoshitoshi