Utagawa Yoshikazu (active 1850 - 1870) Shinten-o Vanquishes a White Monkey On Kiso Mountain, 1853. Oban triptych.
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This is an astonishing triptych and one of Yoshikazu’s finest designs. A pupil of Kuniyoshi, his early work owes a huge debt to his teacher. As a printmaker he is better known as the major artist of the Yokohama school. This print betrays none of the stylistic changes that he adopted as a means of depicting the modern Japan. Looking back to the great warrior triptychs of Kuniyoshi this print portrays the twelfth century warrior Kiso Yoshinaka (1154 - 1184) and his loyal retainers killing a gigantic white monkey on the Kiso Mountain. Yoshinaka is pictured preparing to attack the monkey, in the front of the central panel wearing the robes of the Genji clan. His retainers follow him in the left hand panel. The monkey crouches over a fox and a scattering of human bones at its feet. The print is a masterpiece of invention from that strange and other-worldly landscape to the terrifying and carnivorous primate in the foreground. The shinten of the title refers to the warriors of Yoshinaka. The shinten, (meaning the 'four guardians of heaven') were the four principle retainers of Japanese rulers.
The print is gorgeously drawn especially the monkey which is heavily embossed and burnished. A good early impression, the colours remain fresh and the print is striking overall. It has however been folded in the past and there is a centre crease across all three panels that have caused some visible damage. A highly collectable print, and very rare; the crease damage is reflected in the lower price. A copy of the print exists in the National Gallery of Victoria.
76 x 37 cm.