Yoshitaki, Benkei and Yoshitsune at Gojo Bridge

Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841 - 1899) Benkei and Yoshitsune at Gojo Bridge, 1867. Chuban diptych.

This is another fine and jewel like Osaka print from the artist Utagawa Yoshitaki. It depicts the familiar scene of Benkei and Yoshitsune on the Gojo bridge. It appears to be a very rare, previously unrecorded theatrical design by this artist.

Yoshitsune’s is a tragic and very famous story in Japan. His father was persecuted by the rival Taira Clan and Yoshitsune was brought up in a monastery. Legend has it that he was then taught the secrets of fighting by Tengu (mythical forest creatures) before taking up rebellion against his father’s old enemies. The scene depicted is the meeting between Yoshitsune and the folk hero Oniwakamura (Benkei). Benkei, known as a phenomenally strong man and warrior, has secured Gojo bridge with the intention of relieving 1000 samurai of their swords. Yoshitsune is his 1000th victim. Yoshitsune, though slight, defeats the giant man using Tengu fighting skills. Benkei becomes his loyal protector and between them they lead an armed rebellion against the Taira, establishing Yoshitsune’s brother as the first national Shogun - a position that would last 650 years until the19th century. Yoshitsune was betrayed by his brother and later killed himself and his family at the siege of Koromogawa no tate. A fuller explanation of the story of Yoshitsune and Benkei is available on our blog.

The print is an outstanding, deluxe edition printed on heavy paper with metallic inks which have oxidised. The surface is embossed, lacquered and burnished and like a jewellery box, the print glimmers and shines from within its dark colours. Two sheets joined, colour and impression very fine and in good condition.