fan crest   title
Home •  Recent Update •  Sales Gallery •  Archives
Articles •  Varia •  Glossary •  Biographies •  Bibliography
Search •  Video •  Contact Us •  Conditions of Sale •  Links

Archive: Toyohara Chikanobu (豊原周延)

Chiyoda no Ôoku: Otachinoki (Chiyoda Inner Palace: Evacuation: 千代田之大奥 おたち退)
Yôshû Chikanobu (楊洲周延) on the right sheet
Artist Seal: toshidama (年玉印), the seal of the Utagawa lineage of artists

Fukuda Hatsujirô (福田初次郎); the double fish cartouche reads: "Printed Meiji 29, 3rd mo., 10th day; published 13th day of same yr. and mo. Nihonbashi ward, Hasegawa-chô 19, printer and publisher Fukuda Hatsujirô" (明治廿九年三月十日印刷 仝 年月十三日発行 日本バシ区長谷川町十九バンチ 臨写印刷兼発行者 福田初次郎)

(H x W)
ôban nishiki-e
35.5 x 72.5 cm
Excellent color, unbacked; slightly thinned right margins of R and C sheets where once joined in album
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: CKN03


The Edo/Tokyo artist Toyohara Chikanobu (豊原周延 1838–1912; also Yôshû Chikanobu 楊洲周延 and real name Hashimoto Naoyoshi 橋本直義) had training in Kanô-school painting, but he preferred ukiyo-e. He began his studies with a disciple of Keisai Eisen (渓斎英泉 1790-1848). He then joined the studio of Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi (歌川國芳 1798-1861) around 1852, using the name Yoshitsuru. After Kuniyoshi's death, he studied with Utagawa Kunisada (歌川國貞 1786-1865), sometimes signing as Yôshû (楊洲), and finally with Toyohara Kunichika (豊原國周 1835-1900), calling himself Isshunsai Chikanobu and focusing on actor portraiture. Once established, Chikanobu created print designs with many themes, foremost among them bijinga (美人画 pictures of beautiful women) and sensô-e (戦争絵 pictures of war or warrior prints), including many triptychs depicting events from the aforementioned Boshin War as well as the Satsuma Rebellion (Seinan Sensô: 西南戦争) in 1877. Other subjects included historical scenes, kabuki, famous places (meisho 名所絵), portrayals of the emperor, and pastimes of women. As a late master of bijinga, he produced numerous images and series of beauties in single sheets, diptychs, and triptychs.

For more about Toyohara Chikanobu, see Chikanobu Biography.


Chikanobu has depicted a scene in which six women in the foreground — uniformed guardians of the Chiyoda no Ôoku (Chiyoda Inner Palace: 千代田之大奥) — are readying themselves to protect palace inhabitants during a conflagration. Similarly garbed figures are shown in silhouette, lending an eerie atmosphere to the composition. Billowing fire and smoke can be seen in the background of the left sheet. The women all carry naginata (halberds: 長刀 or 薙刀), signaling that they are trained in otachi shirizoke (spear defense: おたち退). The figure on horseback is likely an officer of the guards. Women given the responsibility of fighting fires were often recruited from farming or merchant families, whereas elite guards would have come from samurai stock.

Chiyoda Castle (千代田城, Chiyoda-jô), once known as Edo Castle (Edo-jô: 江戸城), was built in 1457 by the samurai warrior-poet, military tactician, and Buddhist monk Ôta Dôkan (太田道灌 1432-86 also known as Ôta Sukenaga (太田資長) in Chiyoda, Edo in the Toshima District, Musashi Province. The shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康 1543-1616) established the Tokugawa shogunate here, and the castle served as the residence of the shogun and location of the shogunate, while also functioning as the military capital during the Edo period (1603-1868).

After the capitulation of the shogunate in 1867, the inhabitants including the shogun had to vacate the premises. The castle compound was renamed Tokyo Castle (東京城Tokyo-jô) in October, 1868, and then renamed Imperial Castle (皇城, Kôjô) in 1869. In the year Meiji 2 (1868), on the 23rd day of the 10th month, the emperor moved to Tokyo and Edo castle became an imperial palace.

Late in Chikanobu's career, two large and important series appeared, one on the theme of the Chiyoda no Ôoku, with about 40 designs portraying the pastimes of the inner sanctum, from 1894 to 1896, and the other titled Chiyoda no on-omote (Chiyoda, Outer Precincts of the Palace: 千代田の御表), a series about more public events with around 32 scenes, from 1897. Both sets of triptychs were published by Fukuda Hatsujirô (福田初二郎). Chikanobu's designs for the Chiyoda no Ôoku series are overwhelmingly and overtly charming in their carefree depictions of privileged court life. In these works, women occupy themselves with flower arranging, changing into elegant kimono, dressing one's hair, enjoying walks in elegant gardens, admiring koi (carp: 鲤) in ponds, attending education classes, writing poetry or participating in poetry contests, engaging in the tea ceremony, playing card games, and watching theater plays. All these activities are decidedly different from the rather serious subject of Chikanobu's triptych, however, with its women, admittedly not without their own charms, serving as martial-arts experts primed to protect the members of the inner circle.

This scene represents an all-too likely occurrence. Various fires over the centuries damaged or destroyed parts of the castle, as Edo and the majority of its buildings were constructed of timber. A fire consumed the old Edo Castle on the night of May 5, 1873. The area around the old keep, which burned in the 1657 Meireki fire, became the site of the new Imperial Palace Castle (Kyûjô: 宮城), built in 1888. Some Tokugawa-period buildings that were still standing were later destroyed to make space for new structures to be used by the imperial government.

Other impressions of this triptych can be found in the British Museum, London (No. 1943,0410,0.9.28); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Accession no: JP3558); Portland Art Museum (2006..93.32a-c); Scripps College, Claremont, CA (SC2003.1.85); and Waseda University Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum (201-1287). The impression in Scripps College has the publishing information removed from within the cartouche at the lower left, suggesting this much-admired triptych went through more than one edition.

Our impression of Chikanobu's masterful triptych is excellent and very well preserved, with nicely tarnished flames and smoke, thin margins retained (i.e., full images on each sheet), and tricolor title cartouche (yellow, white, pink).


  • Bruce Coats: Chikanobu: Modernity and nostalgia in Japanese Prints. Leiden: Hotei Publishing, 2006 (N.B., plate no. 204).