Yoshitoshi, Famous Fights Between Brave Men - Tomoe Gozen

Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Famous Fights Between Brave Men (Eimei kumiuchi zoroi): Tomoe Gozen, 1865.  Oban.

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Exceptionally rare, and astonishingly from such a well regarded artist as Yoshitoshi, this print is from a series about which relatively little is known. In 1982 the Yoshitoshi scholar Roger Keyes listed four prints in the series; and in 1992, Robert Schaap in Beauty and Violence: Japanese Prints by Yoshitoshi 1839-1892, listed a further four. Since then a further three have been added. It is widely assumed that this fantastic print of the female warrior, Tomoe Gozen is the first in the series from 1865.

The series was produced only four years after the death of Yoshitoshi’s teacher Kuniyoshi and this print is striking in its resemblance to the musha-e (warrior) style of Kuniyoshi. In subject matter, design and production, the print is an almost direct copy of that artist’s earlier version of the subject from 1840… itself a rare and unusual print for the date. 

Tomoye was the warrior mistress of Kiso Yoshinaka, and is seen here overcoming the Taira warrior Musashi Saburoemon Arikuni in a fight from the northern campaign of Minamoto no Yoshinaka during the Genpei Wars of the late twelfth century. She is a popular folk heroine but rarely illustrated until Kuniyoshi’s mid-century invention of the 'strong woman' print. As in the earlier print, Yoshitoshi sets the action in front of a dramatic blue waterfall. Yoshitoshi would quickly refine this earlier style and join it with his own interpretation of European illustration… a subject not yet fully explored.

A tremendous print, a great design and an essential piece linking Yoshitoshi’s early development with his teacher. Colour, condition and impression are all fine.

Publisher: Moriji.

25 x 36 cm.