Utagawa Yoshitsuya (1822-1866) The Defeated Generals of the Taira Clan at the Bottom of the Sea near Dan-no-Ura, c.1860. Oban triptych.
This fine and well known print by Yoshitsuya (another pupil of Kuniyoshi) depicts the scene at Dan-no-Ura moments after the defeat of the Taira Clan by Yoshitsune. As defeat became obvious, the leaders of the clan, the nine year old Emperor, his mother and the samurai all jumped to their deaths taking the sacred relics of the Empire with them. Taira Norimori placed a heavy anchor on his armour and followed the rest into the sea. The print shows the clan as immortal... as ghosts. In the centre stands Norimori with the anchor. In the right hand panel is the young emperor seated on his mother and others of the clan around them. The scene is awash with sea creatures and a benign dragon representing the royal household. Ghost stories abound about the drowned samurai, and even today it is said that the faces of their ghosts may be seen in the shells of the local Heike crabs. The Empire was overthrown by this defeat and was not reinstated until 1864. It is not fanciful to suppose that this depiction of the tragic battle was politically inspired.
For more information on this incident see our blog post here.
This is an excellent print in good condition; three oban panels, attached to Japanese paper. Some signs of surface wear, but a strong impression and good colour.
74 x 36 cm.