Yoshitoshi, Colonel Nozu Fighting with Kirino Toshiaki at Kagoshima

Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Colonel Nozu Fighting with Kirino Toshiaki at Kagoshima (Kagoshima ryoyu ikkiuchi no zu), 1877. Oban Triptych.

A stunning triptych that still owes much to the great musha-e triptychs of Kuniyoshi from half a century later. Following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when reformers (ironically from the southern Satsuma region) forcibly restored the titular Emperor, dislodging the centuries old Tokugawa Shogunate, there remained considerable disquiet amongst the old samurai class. The new government reforms led to the marginalisation of traditional values and in 1877 there commenced a final, brief civil war.

The outcome was the defeat of traditionalist rebels at Kagoshima in Satsuma. The war restored Yoshitoshi’s flagging career and he produced a number of prints including several triptychs that recorded the events and the characters of the rebellion. This superb print records a fight between Kirino Toshiaki (on the right), a senior samurai officer of the rebellion and Nozu Michitsura of the imperial army. Yoshitoshi, like other artists of the period depicts the conflict as being between values as well as individuals. Michitsura is shown in modern field uniform of western design whilst the rebels on the right of the picture are dressed in the colourful, romantic clothes of rural, traditional Japan. In reality, both armies were dressed in contemporary uniforms and used firearms, although Toshiaki was a notable martial artist and swordsman.

The composition and many of the incidental details owe a great deal to Kuniyoshi and more particularly to Renaissance  battle scenes that Utagawa artists would have been familiar with from books of Dutch engravings. Both horses are pure Italian quattrocento painting and especially the work of Paolo Uccello.  Like the Italians, Yoshitoshi uses devices such as fallen figures, swords and lances to open up the foreground space. The drawing of the horses is especially skillful as is the portrait of Toshiaki in the centre panel.

A fine piece in very fine condition. Very fine colour and impression.

71cm x 36cm.