Kuniyoshi, Soga Juro fighting with Nitta Shiro Tadatsune in Pouring Rain

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Soga Juro fighting with Nitta Shiro Tadatsune in Pouring Rain, 1842. Oban Triptych.

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One of the Kuniyoshi masterpieces that are in major museum exhibitions, this is a fine… an outstanding design with its evocation of misery and slaughter in the mud and the pouring rain. The revenge of the Soga Brothers, Juro and Goro on their father’s murderer, Kudo Suketane was one of the most celebrated of the revenge dramas in Edo Japan. Kudo had treacherously killed their father the wrestler Kawazu no Saburo when they were children and the boys were were raised by Soga no Taro. They planned their revenge for eighteen years. In 1193, Kudo was accompanying the Shogun on a hunting trip at the base of Mount Fuji, bursting into his tent and killing him. There followed a huge fight wherein They were set upon by Kudo’s retainers who killed Juro and captured Goro. Despite the justice of their case, Goro was executed on the orders of the Shogun.

Kuniyoshi shows Juro fighting with Nitta Shiro Tadatsune, a famous warrior and subject of many Kuniyoshi prints. Tim Clark of the British Museum describes the representation of the pouring rain as, a tour de force by the block cutters, while obscuring neither of the protagonists' faces nor the artist’s signature.

The print is a masterpiece but this copy, rare though it is, has suffered the ravages of time. The colour and the impression are all fine but the sheets have heavily worn centre folds and the middle sheet has an inexpert repair to the middle of the left sheet. The overall surface and paper quality generally are also damaged. Nevertheless, it looks and handles satisfactorily and the condition is in any case reflected in the very low price.

Published by Sakurai.