Kesa Gozen

Toyohara Kunichika

 

36 Good and Evil Beauties -
This print illustrates the beautiful Kesa Gozen. Endo Morito, the son of a minor courtier became infatuated with her despite the fact that she was married to a palace guard. He bullied her until she agreed to his advances on the condition that he murder her husband. She concealed herself in her husband’s room having first cut off her long hair. Morito stole into the room and cut off the head of the sleeping figure only discovering later that he had killed the object of his desire. He became a monk and famously spent three years doing penance beneath the freezing Nachi waterfall, the subject of many ukiyo prints. Here we see Gozen with a knife in her hand preparing to cut off her own hair in front of a table mirror wrapped in cloth.

 

Amy Reigle Newland devoted a whole paragraph on page 18 to the significance of this series, i.e., Zen-aku sanjūroku bijin, at the beginning of her book on Kunichika: "Thirty-six good and evil beauties (Zen-aku sanjūroku bijin)... of 1876 is arguably one of Kunichika's most accomplished forays into bijinga. The quality of printing is superb. His treatment of the subject is fluid, the women portrayed energetic, wild, their poses at times reminiscent of those encountered in the work of earlier artists like Kuniyoshi and Kunisada, and in his own actor prints... Each sheet in Thirty-six good and evil beauties illustrates a famous woman from distant or more recent history with an explanatory cartouche above by a contemporary writer."

 

Condition: Margins as shown, fair condition, not backed, stained in places.

Date: 1876