The term ukiyo-e, literally “pictures of the floating world,” refers to a genre of Japanese artwork that flourished in the Edo period (1600–1868). As the phrase “floating world” suggests, with its roots in the ephemeral worldview of Buddhism, ukiyo-e captured the fleeting dynamics of contemporary urban life. While being accessible and catering to “common” tastes, the artistic and technical details of these prints show remarkable sophistication, their subjects ranging from portraits of courtesans and actors to classical literature. This print is a page from an illustrated album, Allegory of Ōiso and Gorō. It is an early example of sumizuri-e (monochrome prints), the figures arranged in a simple and clear composition. The characters Tora of Ōiso and Gorō are from a popular war chronicle, Soga Monogatari (The Tale of the Soga), in which the Soga brothers attempt revenge for the death of their father. The tragic romance between Tora and Jyūrō, Gorō’s older brother, gives emotional depth to the tale.

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Izumiya Gonshiro, Japan


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Physical Description

1 print (2 pages) : woodcut, color ; 23.1 x 32.1 centimeters (15.8 centimeters to the fold)

Last updated: February 5, 2014