Fujiwara no Yasumasa Plays the Flute by Moonlight

Artist: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839-1892)
Historical period(s)
Meiji era, 1883
Ink and color on paper
H x W (image): 35.5 x 70 cm (14 x 27 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase -- funds provided by Dr. Carol Master, Mr. and Mrs. Willard G. Clark, and Dr. and Mrs. Robert S. Feinberg
Arthur M. Sackler Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

flute, Japan, Meiji era (1868 - 1912), moon, night, noble, triptych
Provenance research underway.

This finely preserved image depicts the courtier Fujiwara no Yasumasa (958-1036) strolling on a desolate moor and subduing a would-be robber with the seductive sounds of his flute. The story suggests a recurring theme of court literature: the victory of culture over violence. This legend was adapted for Kabuki and the print triptych seen here was produced to coincide with an 1883 staging.

Western illustration techniques including shading, perspective, and foreshortening can be observed here and indicate the dramatic confluence of cultures which formed the backdrop for many of Yoshitoshi's creations. This triptych (a work in three parts) is one of the most memorable produced in late-nineteenth-century Japan.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura. Beyond the Brush: Japanese Prints, Paper Works and Photographs. vol. XLIII no. 3. p. 31, fig. 1.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 328-329.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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