Kuniyoshi, Ten Admirable Deeds of Tametomo - Catching Arrows

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Ten Admirable Deeds of Tametomo: Tametomo Catching Arrows,  1848. Oban.

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A rare print… the short series from which it is taken illustrates scenes from the life of an actual hero, Minamoto Tametomo. Minamoto Tametomo was a twelfth century warrior whose exploits were fictionalised in a novel by Takizawa Bakin titled Yumibari tsuki (Bow of the Full Moon) .  Bakin was wildly popular in the early nineteenth century as a new type of novelist; his work included the best seller account of the Eight Dog Heroes, the subject of very many ukiyo-e series.

Minamoto no Tametomo (1139 –1170) brother of Yoshitomo, is known in the epic chronicles as a great archer, and it is said that he once sunk an entire Taira ship with a single arrow by puncturing its hull below the waterline. He fought against the forces of Taira no Kiyomori and Minamoto no Yoshitomo, his brother. After defeat, he was banished to the island of Oshima. Tametomo eventually killed himself by slicing his abdomen, possibly the first warrior to commit seppuku in the chronicles.

This print is the first in the series, and shows him at thirteen years old catching arrows shot at him in a competition with Shonagon Nyudo Shinsei. It is a fine print… classic, confident Kuniyoshi. Beautifully balanced and drawn, a lovely delicate cartouche recounting the story in the top left and the youthful warrior with the arrows held in both hands and between his teeth… a prediction of his fate in adult life.

The impression and colour are very fine indeed, crisp and clean… as sharp as the day it was printed. Condition overall is excellent - there are archaic worm holes on the lower left that have been professionally restored. A beautiful print.

Publisher: Arita-ya Seiemon.

35.5 x 24 cm.