Sadahide, Scene of a Battle

Utagawa Sadahide (1807 - 1873) Scene of a Battle, c. 1860. Oban Triptych.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

We returned to the theme of warriors in 2013 with a show that looked at the development of the warrior print against the background of social chaos that came to characterise the nineteenth century in Japan. This print by Sadahide, with its plummeting figure senselessly holding a severed head could be seen as an adequate metaphor for a society in civil war.

A superb and typical musha-e (warrior) triptych by Sadahide, a pupil of Kuniyoshi’s rival Kunisada, although the overall style of drawing, subject matter and execution makes this a surprising fact. This print owes everything to Kuniyoshi and his great warrior triptychs. Sadahide is best known for his Yokohama prints and was widely considered to be the best artist working in Edo in the 1870’s.

The print shares a great deal (the falling figure with the severed head) with a Kuniyoshi print of Yoshinaka and Tomonori at Naminoyo. The print is truly a vision of the hell of war. The surface is alive with the fires of battle; through the flames and smoke, we see the heavy castle walls and the gaudy flags of the troops; in the right hand sheet a samurai dives from the high walls having committed suicide by plunging a sword through his neck, clutching the severed head of either a fellow or an enemy. It is the more likely that Sadahide is picturing the honourable double suicide of a defeated general and his daimyo - this was common practice in the era of the warring states.

This is a very good print from a collectible artist. Colour and impression are very fine as is the condition.

72cm x 36cm.