History of Art and Architecture

Elizabeth Self Colloquium

Wednesday, November 9, 2016 - 12:00pm

202 Frick Fine Arts Building

Yodo-dono (1569-1615) was the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), a powerful warlord and one of Japan’s “Three Great Unifiers” of the late sixteenth century. When he died, their young son Hideyori (1593-1615) was only five years old, leaving Yodo-dono to act as his unofficial regent. As such, she was the driving force for much of the Toyotomi family’s patronage of art and architecture during this era. However, scholars have typically read her patronage of religious institutions as either glorifying the Toyotomi clan and reifying their authority, or as a stratagem employed by the Tokugawa to encourage the Toyotomi to drain their immense coffers. Yodo-dono, in turn, has been portrayed as either or a loyal wife and good mother dedicated to furthering her son’s career, or a villain and dupe of the Tokugawa. My study of Yodo-dono’s patronage patterns provides further nuances to this limited understanding of Yodo-dono’s agency.

Yōgen’in Temple was founded by Hideyoshi and Yodo-dono in 1594, and dedicated to Yodo-dono’s parents Prominently placed and well-funded, it was one of the earliest markers of Yodo-dono’s desire to emphasize her own familial identity. Taking it as a case study, I argue that Yododono continued to work throughout her life further the interests of the few surviving members of her family and to preserve and promote the memories of her parents. After her husband’s death, Yodo-dono sponsored many other religious sites associated with her family or formerly patronized by them. Analyzing her art and architectural patronage from the founding of Yōgen’in in 1594 to her death in 1615, I will demonstrate that even while ostensibly working to promote the interests of the Toyotomi family, Yodo-dono used her money and influence to patronize sites related to her natal family.