Yoshitaki, Four Sheet Scene from Soga Monogatari

Utagawa Yoshitaki (ca 1841 - 1899) Scene From Soga Monogatari, Early 1850’s. Deluxe Chuban Tetraptych.

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We have two of these astonishing four sheet pieces in the current show; this first one by Yoshitaki is a superb scroll like rendition of the popular drama of filial loyalty and revenge based on the story of the Soga Brothers. Visually the piece unfolds right to left, and the first figure on the right is encrusted with silver and pattern, the metallics looking like applied jewels they are so thick and lavish. The character looks to the left as do the figures on the following two sheets and the visual direction comes to an abrupt halt with the final figure who stares back, his stance defensive. Behind them is an elaborate courtyard building whose perspective reinforces the visual direction of the drama. This print is alive with rich detail and intervention and uses all of the deluxe techniques available to the printer.

The story was a popular subject for kabuki audiences: in 1175 Kudo saemon Suketsune had his cousin Sukemichi assassinated in order to gain an inheritance. Eighteen years later, in 1193, Sukemichi’s two sons Juro Sukenari and Goro Tokimune revenged themselves by killing Suketsune in the course of a hunting party on Mount Fuji. Juro was killed in the fight but Goro was taken prisoner. What follows is the crux of the play’s tragedy for Japanese audiences. Although the shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo sympathised with the brothers' loyalty and was inclined to pardon Goro, he was persuaded by Suketsune’s son to execute him. The conflict between the duty of the sons and the authority of the state remains a vital key to understanding both bushido (the way of the samurai) and the feudal system of the shogunate.

This is a fine print in excellent condition, the metallics remain vibrant and intact. The four sheets are attached and mounted on vintage album backing. The colour, impression and condition are all very fine. Overall an excellent intact tetraptych.

70cm x 25cm.