Moon over Daimotsu Bay: Benkei from the series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (Tsuki hyakushi)

Artist: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839-1892)
Historical period(s)
Meiji era, January 1886
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 37.3 x 25 cm (14 11/16 x 9 13/16 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

Anne van Biema collection, Benkei, boat, Japan, Meiji era (1868 - 1912), moon, night, ocean, wave
Provenance research underway.

A full moon illuminates this haunting image of the Buddhist priest Benkei, a loyal follower of the warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189), as he stands calmly at the prow of a ship. Benkei holds a rosary in his right hand as he invokes the powers of the Buddhist deities to protect the ship from the deadly storm that arose after Yoshitsune had set off by sea to evade the forces of his half brother, Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147-1199). Above the waves appear the vengeful ghosts of the Taira warriors who had died in the naval Battle of Dannoura (1185) that had ended their five-year war with the rival Minamoto family. Benkei's prayers calmed the ghosts, whose voices could be heard in the wind. Benkei's stillness contrasts with the threatening waves and the shadowy, translucent clouds, which represent better than the ghosts in more literal representations of this scene the intersection between danger and imagination. This story was performed in no dramas, but was first enacted in kabuki in November 1885, an event that may have inspired this design for Yoshitoshi's famous series, One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (Tsuki hyakushi).

Published References
  • At the Museums. vol. XLIX, no. 1, 2003. p. 70.
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 97, pp. 250-251.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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