Hiroshige, The Revenge of the Soga Brothers No. 2

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858) The Story of the Revenge of the Soga Brothers - Soga Monogatari Zuye: Number 2, 1847. Oban.

Number two in the Hiroshige series telling the story of the revenge of the Soga brothers. It’s a mysterious and haunting series of prints of great subtlety and brilliance. There is  a darkness and density to these prints that nicely catches the story of revenge and humiliation; the colours are dense and the figures do not overshadow the compositions.

There is a good summary of the Soga story here. In the twelfth century two rival lords fell out, Lord Kudo killed Kawazu-Saburo who left two infant boys, Juro and Goro. Their mother remarried and they took their stepfather’s name Soga. At five, they vowed revenge on their father’s death and by maturity they were committed to carry out the plan. In 1192 on the occasion of a hunting party, they ambushed Kudo, slaying him in his tent. 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. Hiroshige’s series contains thirty (possibly thirty-six) illustrations of the story and he weaves details from the kabuki plays and other tellings of the events into his prints.

This print from the beginning of the tale shows Kudo’s assassins about to fire arrows at a rival lord, which will by accident kill the Soga brothers' father.

This is a very nice print indeed, showing Hiroshige’s great skill as a landscape artist. The landscape arrangement is reminiscent of some of the Tokaido Road prints for which he was famous; the colours here in contrast though are dark and brooding.

A fine piece in excellent condition. Good impression and colour. A less good copy of this print is the MFA Collection Boston.