Home‎ > ‎Artists‎ > ‎Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915)‎ > ‎

Kesa Gozen from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition (re-issue)


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Kesa Gozen

from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

by Kobayashi Kiyochika, 1902

IHL Cat. #573

About This Print

Print number 121 in the 1902 re-issued series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition picturing Endo Morito about to mistakenly cut off the head of Kesa Gozen.  The re-issued series of prints eliminated the brocade borders of the original series issued between 1885 and 1890.

The original blocks for this print (see this collection's 1885 original-issue print Kesa Gozen from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition) were likely damaged or lost, as this 1902 print uses a new design to illustrate the story of Kesa Gozen.  This new design began appearing while the earlier brocade border series was still being produced. 

Kiyochika contributed 20 prints to this series.  As Smith states: "Thestyle of Kiyochika’s offerings to Instructive Models of LoftyAmbition was decorous and even stiff, as befitted the didacticemphasis of the whole [series.]"2

1 This number only appears on the 1885 originally issued print and not in the 1902 re-issue.  Even in the originally issued prints, print numbers were sometimes inadvertently omitted as they were reprinted; some prints in the series were never assigned numbers and a few of the same numbers appeared on different prints. 
2 Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 74.

Kesa Gozen

Source: Robyn Buntin of Honolulu gallery website  http://www.robynbuntin.com/Articles/PDFs/KesaGozen.pdf
Endo Morito, the son of a minor courtier, became infatuated with thebeautiful Kesa Gozen, the faithful young wife of Watanabe Wataru, apalace guard. She rejected his advances but he was so persistent thatshe pretended to agree to his proposal on the condition that he firstkill her husband.

Kesa concocted a plan where Morito was to steal intoWataru’s room by night. That night, Kesa cut off her long hair and laydown in the darkness in her husband’s bed. At midnight Morito arrivedand felt in the darkness until he found the sleeping figure. Heimmediately cut the head off and ran off. He was horrified to find thathe had cut off the head of Kesa Gozen.

He renounced the world andbecame a monk. For three years he attempted to atone for his crime bythe harshest austerities, standingunder the icy Nachi waterfall inwinter. He was frozen and about to expire, but was saved by Fudo Myo-o(Buddhist Diety of Fire, depicted with a sword in one hand and a ropein the other) and his Acolytes, Kongara and Seitaka.

The story of Kesa Gozen is portrayed in a number of prints including The Diety Fudo and the Priest Mongaku in this collection.

Transcription of Scroll

Source: with thanks to Yajifun http://yajifun.tumblr.com/
12 Kesa Gozen 袈裟御前
教導立志基 十二 袈裟御前 小林清親 1885年12月
Transcription: [scroll text by 濱町清談園主]
“袈裟ハ陸奥衣川に生れ阿都磨と云(いひ)后 源渡の妻たり 盛遠適路に逢ひ眷戀して其母を劫(おびやか)し袈裟に迫りて不已(やまず)袈裟の曰く 君の命に従はんが夫あるを如何せん と 依て今宵渡を害せんと約し其夜自(ミづから)髪を絶ちて渡に疑し南楼に臥して盛遠の為に討る 世人挙(こぞつ)て其貞操を賞賛す 濱町清談園主 誌”

About The Series "Kyōdō risshi no motoi"

1. This series is variously translated as "Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition," "Foundations of Learning and Achievement," "Foundation of Instruction and Perseverance," "Self-Made Men Worthy of Emulation," "Paragons of Instruction and Success," "Moral of Success," "Examples of Self-Made Leaders," and "Instruction in the Fundamentals of Success."  The title in Japanese is sometimes seen as "Kyōdō risshiki or "Kyōdō risshi no moto," in addition to the most commonly seen transliteration of "Kyōdō risshi no motoi".
2. For a complete listing of all the prints in the series and additional information please see the article on this site titled Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition.

This series ran between October 1885 and November 1890 and featured a long list of heroes and heroines, from antiquity to contemporary times, who were regarded as standards of moral leadership and self-realization.

Source: Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 74-75; original research and as footnoted.
This series of 58 prints,1 plus a table of contents sheet (目録), were originally published between October 1885 and November 1890 by the Tokyo publisher Matsuki Heikichi 松木平吉.2  The table of contents sheet issued by the publisher states that "fifty prints make up the complete set (五十番揃)".  Three prints not in the initial release were added over the five year publication period, as were five redesigns of original prints, eventually increasing the total print count to 58.  The seven artists contributing prints were Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) [20 prints], Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) [16 prints], Inoue Tankei (Yasuji) (1864-1889) [13 prints], Taiso (Tsukioka) Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) [5 prints],  Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) [2 prints], Toyohara Kunichika (1835–1900) [1 print], and Hachisuka (Utagawa) Kuniaki II (1835-1888) [1 print].  All the artists, with the exception of Yōshū Chikanobu, are listed in the top scroll of the table of contents sheet.  Various colors (including blue, blue/green, and tan/brown) were used for the decorative border, and in 1902 the series was re-issued by Matsuki without borders.  

Brief texts contained within a scroll-like cartouche appearing on each print provide historical details.  The scroll composer's name is given at the end of the scroll text.  The “lofty ambition” of the title is a Confucian concept, originally from Mencius, meaning “righteous determination that would inspire others.”  The market for the series probably included former samurai, ambitious youth, and conservative intellectuals.

"[W]hen it was completed in 1890 the publisher was singled out for special recognition by the government for having sponsored such noble subject matter."3

1 The Tokyo Metropolitan Library online collection shows 50 prints and a Table of Contents sheet.  The Table of Contents lists the titles of 50 prints.  Smith in Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan identified 52 prints.  I have identified 58 prints from this series including five prints (Ikina, Michizane SugiwaraKesa GozenSoga Brothers and Hokiichi Hanawa) that were re-designed and re-printed, likely due to damaged or lost blocks.
2 Robert Schaap notes in Appendix II, p. 166 of Yoshitoshi, Masterpieces from the Ed Freis Collection, Chris Uhlenbeck and Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing, 2011 that the series originally appeared as newspaper supplements.
3 The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilization, Julia Meech-Pekarik, Weatherhill, 1986, p. 122.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Kesa Gozen 袈裟御前
 Series“Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition” (Kyōdō risshiki 教導立志基) [note: seriestitle also seen as  'Kyodo Risshi no Moto', ‘Kyodo risshi no motoi’,‘Kyōdō risshi ki’ and variously translated as “Moral of success” or“Foundations of learning and achievement” or “Self-made Men Worthy ofEmulation”' or “Examples of Self-made Leaders” or "Paragons of instruction and success"] 
 Artist  Kiyochika Kobayashi (1847-1915)
 Signature Kiyochika
 Seal  Kiyochika below signature

 Publication Date 1902 re-issue of 1885 original publication but using new design (see explanation above)
 Publisher Matsuki Heikichi (松木平吉) proprietor of Daikokuya
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - not backed and full size; minor soiling; some bleeding of red ink.
 Genre ukiyo-e; rekishi-e; kyōiku nishiki-e
 Format vertical oban
 H x W Paper
 14 x 9 1/4 in. (35.6 x 23.5 cm)
 H x W Image
 12 1/2 x 8 in. (31.8 x 20.3 cm)
 Collections This Print
 Tokyo Metropolitan Library 270-K002 (variant 1888 edition, see Kesa Gozen from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition)