Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892), "The Fox-Woman Kuzunoha Leaving Her Child"
|Title||The Fox-Woman Kuzunoha Leaving Her Child|
|Medium||Original Japanese Woodblock Print|
|Series Title||Thirty-six Ghosts and Strange Apparitions|
|Reference No||Stevenson: plate #20|
|Size||14 -1/4 x 9 -1/2 "|
|Condition||Fine, with fresh colors.|
Notes: The woman is, in fact, is a fox (kitsune), a magical creature that can take the shape of a human being. She was once saved by the nobleman Abe no Yasuna when a group of men hunted the fox for her liver. Abe swiftly hid the creature in his robes and the group of chasers rushed on. Shortly after, Abe married a young woman named Kuzunoha. They had a child together and lived happily for three years. However, she suddenly disappeared from the palace, later appearing in a dream of Abe to tell him not to mourn her as she was not a human, but the fox he saved.
The poem she left to her husband reads:
'If you think of me with love
come seek me in the forest of Shinoda
and you will find a kudzu leaf (lit. kuzu-no-ha, a pun on her name)'
The true form of Kuzunoha appears in the shadow on the sliding door. It was thought that reflections and shadows reveal the true form of supernatural beings pretending to be human. Unable to stay with her loved ones, she leaves her child behind in order to return to her natural habitat - the forest.
A little boy tugs at the kimono of his fleeing mother, her mysteriously shaped face casts a shadow on the translucent paper of the sliding screens.
Ghosts stories were popular in Japan. People liked to gather by candlelight and tell scary tales. When a legend was finished, one candle was blown out and the next person began.
When Yoshitoshi created 100 ghosts’ stories, he used this tradition. Twenty-six selected designs and a title page were published in 1865. First editions sold out immediately, because Yoshitoshi had become a famous artist by the end of his career.
The new forms of 36 ghosts were Yoshitoshi’s last important series. The woodblocks were made after Japanese and Chinese stories. Many pupils assisted him during the complicated preparation. Circa twelve blocks were carved per design and separately used for each color or special effect. The prints were published from 1889 until 1892.