Yoshitoshi, 24 Accomplishments in Imperial Japan - Torii Suneemon Katsutaka Leaving the Castle

Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Twenty-four Accomplishments in Imperial Japan: Torii Suneemon Katsutaka Leaving the Castle, 1887. Oban.

This very beautifully executed print portrays a soldier, Torii Suneemon, of the Okudaira clan in sixteenth century Japan. Suneemon’s clan were loyal to Oda Nobunaga, the Okudaira were under siege in the castle at Nagashino and Suneemon was tasked with sneaking out of the Yagyu Gate at night to alert Nobunaga to send support. Yoshitoshi pictures the moment - the stealthy movement of the soldier, the backward glance to safety. The print is dominated by the forbidding verticals of the water-gate and by tripwires, connected to bells and strung by the enemy to alert them to such an attempt. The herons escaping the picture remind the viewer to the fate that awaits Suneemon on his reckless return.

He is successful in reaching Nobunaga but attempts to return to inform the clan to hang on a few more days. He is captured by the enemy and crucified at the castle walls, whereupon he bellows his last message to his commander. As a result of his actions, the castle is held and the Takeda are routed. His bravery so impressed the enemy that a Takeda commander took the image of the crucified man as his standard - this strangely affecting sixteenth century relic survives at the University of Tokyo Library.

The series is similar in intent to the preceding ones on this page - an overview of heroic and successful figures of Japan’s past. The quality of print, block cutting and design are exceptional. There is disagreement (as with many of Yoshitoshi’s prints) over the significance of the differing cartouches and signatures of this series. Some museums and specialists locate certain editions as posthumous, but there is no overall consensus. It is possible therefore that this is the 1895 edition rather than the 1887 edition.

Fine colour, impression and condition. Full size with margins.