Kuniyoshi, Soga Goro outside the Shoji of Yoshimori

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Soga Goro outside the Shoji of Yoshimori, 1842. Oban Triptych.

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A terrific and finely coloured Kuniyoshi triptych. Very fine quality with rich and unfaded colours, a magnificent object, powerful and brilliantly designed and coloured. Kuniyoshi pictures the scene just before violence erupts inside the military tent (shoji), Soga Goro’s face set with grim determination.

Henri Joly describes below the saga of the Soga Brothers, a novel, like Genji that became extraordinarily popular in Edo Japan.

SOGA BROTHERS; (SOGA KYODAI). Juro Sukenari and his brother, Goro Tokimune, were the sons of Kawazu Sukeyasu, who had been killed by Kudo Suketsune, in the mountains of Hakone, about 1190, when the eldest boy, Ichiman-maru, was but five years old and his brother, Hako-o-maru, was only three. According to one dramatised version, the murderer appealed to Yoritomo some years later, and represented that the boys would try to murder the Shogun, who had killed their grandfather, Ito Sukechika. The Shogun believed this tale, and ordered Kajiwara Genda Kagesuye to behead them upon the beach of Yuigahama, with the help of Soga Taro Sukenobu. Kudo Suketsune, who did not expect this turn of affairs, interposed, pointing out the ages (thirteen and ten) of the lads; his prayers were in vain, but Hatakeyama Shigetada was more successful, and saved the life of the boys at the last minute.

According to the usual story, after the death of Kawazu (Saburo) his widow married a man named Soga, who adopted her son Juro Sukenari and sent the younger boy to a Buddhist temple, where he received the name of Hako-o-maru. Tokimune, however, did not intend to become a monk, but to avenge his father. Once when grown up Juro heard that the doomed Suketsune was hard by in camp with Yoritomo, near Fuji, ready for a hunt. Vaulting a horse that was grazing in a field, and using a daikon as whip, he rode from Soga to Oiso to meet his brother, and they returned to achieve their vendetta.

Their plans were, however, thwarted for the day by their own mother, whose step-son was an adherent of Suketsune, and to deceive this possible informer she arranged for the sudden wedding of both her sons to two girls named Tora, of Oiso, and Shosho, of Kehaizaka. But at night the two brothers met one another in the garden, and not heeding the storm raging all over the country, made for the camp, where they found the inmates preparing for the following day's hunt. Hatakeyama Shigetada directed them to the tent of Suketsune, whom they killed. One of his attendants, Otona'i, was so afraid that he ran away naked. The story somewhat varies; some say that they found Suketsune drunk and asleep; another version gives him the company of a Joro. However, after slaying him they proclaimed their deed, and fought his retainers. Sukenari was killed and Goro had cut his way right up to Yoritomo's presence when he was tripped from behind by the wrestler, Goromaru, dressed as a woman. Yoritomo was inclined to spare Goro owing to his youth, but he could not refuse justice to the son of Suketsune, and Goro was executed; he was but twenty years old.

A very good Kuniyoshi triptych in the grand manner. Colour, impression and condition are all fine.

Publisher: Takahashi-ya.

75 x 37 cm.