Yoshitaki, Arashi Rikan IV as Yoshimura Torataro

Utagawa Yoshitaki (ca 1841 - 1899) Arashi Rikan IV as Yoshimura Torataro, c.1870. Deluxe Chuban triptych.

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This deluxe triptych from Yoshitaki is unusual. It is from a play, Yamato Nishiki Asahi no Hata-age, that tells of the overthrow of the Shogunate by a fanatical monarchist, pictured here in the centre sheet taking his own life in a ritual and gory act of seppuku. Sensitivities around the revolution of 1864 meant that woodblock artists rarely represented the violent struggle in detail. Those that did specifically, such as Yoshitoshi, often fell foul of the authorities.

This late Osaka print shows Yoshimura Torataro, a  member of the Tosa Loyalist Party, who died in battle (but not by his own hand) against pro-shogunate forces in 1863. Yoshimura was born into the family of the village headman in 1837. He admired the sonnô jôi ("revere the emperor, expel the barbarians") ideology, and joined the Tosa Loyalist Party which Takechi helped found.

In 1862, he became active in national affairs and was arrested in the Teradaya Affair, sent back to Tosa, and imprisoned. After being released on bail, he returned to Kyoto and established a temporary residence for himself in Kiyamachi.

The following year (1863), along with others, he raised an anti-shogunate army in Yamato province, and occupied the offices of the Gojo Magistrate. There was a change in government, however, and their army met shogunate forces in battle. Torataro, who was catching his breath in a hut in Washiyaguchi, was surrounded by Tsu clan soldiers. He begged to commit harakiri, but was shot dead.

His supporters - who won the revolution and revered him in death - liked to portray him as having taken his own life but the less glamorous account seems to be more accurate. Yoshitaki shows him at the point of death in the forest cornered by the enemy. An interesting detail is yet again the appearance of the upside down, acrobatic figure from western art on whom  Torataro kneels defiantly to the end.

A very good Yoshitaki triptych, colour and condition are fine, the sheets are untrimmed with full margins, unbacked and unattached. A great example with metallics and burnishing. Overall very good condition, some minor creases.

56 x 26 cm.