Kuniyoshi, Military Brilliance for the Eight Views - Lingering Snow at Ishiyama

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Military Brilliance for the Eight Views: Lingering Snow at Ishiyama, 1852. Oban.

The third print from this masterful series by Kuniyoshi which obliquely celebrates the achievements of eight of the great Samurai warriors of Japanese history. The portrait here is of Suzuki Shigeyuki. The eight views are confusing to the western viewer; originally a Chinese concept, the views were a catalogue of beautiful scenes in the Xiaoxiang region of China from the Song dynasty around the eleventh century. The views were traditionally associated with deeper themes of exile and enlightenment, history and Taoism. The Japanese co-opted the idea and produced poetry and prints celebrating similar themes with associated titles but set in Japan rather than the native China. The original eight subtitles from 1090 remain as follows:

Wild Geese DescendSailboat(s) Returning Home, Clearing Mist, Sunset Snow, The Autumn Moon, Night Rain, Evening Bell, Evening Glow.

In this print Kuniyoshi commemorates the siege of the temple fortress of Ishiyama Hongan-ji in the 1570’s. Oda Nobunaga who was victorious against Yoritomo in the preceding print is also the victor in the conflict which this print recalls. The Ikko-ikki, mobs of warrior monks and peasants, were among the last to stand in the way of Nobunaga’s bid to conquer all of Japan. The final chapter in their opposition was a lengthy siege which took nearly a decade to resolve. This print probably illustrates a brave counter attack by the Ikko-ikki, who on the night of September 12th 1570 nearly succeeded in pushing Nobunaga’s forces back with an assault by 3,000 arquebusiers. Kuniyoshi shows Suzuki Shigeyuki creeping through snow covered reeds at night, holding a Teppo (a Japanese arquebus). The same character, holding an identical pose is pictured in the assassination attempt on Nobunaga by Kuniyoshi in a Genji print from 1855.  The Ikko-ikki eventually surrendered in 1850, the fortress temple was burned to the ground and the present day Osaka Castle built in its place.

This is a superb print, an exceptional design from the first edition, and in fine condition. Colour and impression are very fine, some minor frits to the left side, otherwise perfect condition. The large cartouche surrounded by militaria contains a poem celebrating the event.

A copy of this print is in the MFA Boston and another in the British Museum, London.

Signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga with kiri seal. Published by Enshuya Hikobei.

35cm x 25cm.