Utagawa Yoshikazu (active 1850-1870) The Battle of Dan-no-Ura of 1185, 1850's. Oban Triptych.
Click here for a detailed enlargement.
The sea battle at Dan-no-Ura was the culmination of a war that would decide who ruled Japan for the next seven hundred years. Two opposing factions, the Minamoto and the Taira (Heike) clans faced each other in fleets off the coast of Japan on April the 25th, 1185. The Taira had with them the seven year old Emperor and his family; the Minamoto were led by the legendary warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune. The turning point in the ferocious battle came when a senior Taira general defected to the Minamoto and identified the ship containing the child Emperor Antoku and his family. The Minamoto archers turned their arrows on the flagship, sending it out of control. The nine year old Emperor and his grandmother, foretelling defeat, jumped to their deaths saying, "In the depths of the ocean we have a capital." Then began the most tragic mass suicide in the history of the samurai.
This a fine and elegant triptych. Yoshitsune is shown in mid flight in the centre panel, executing his legendary 'eight boat leap' to escape the clutches of the samurai Noritsune - seen on the right. Yoshikazu borrows Kuniyoshi's design but especially in his decorative treatment of the waves. These powerful graphic forms evoke the clashing seas from a stage set at Bayreuth. Elsewhere, he evokes the sea battle with its streaming pennants and helpless drowning samurai.
This is a fine triptych from an artist still highly regarded. The print is extremely fresh and clean and the colours, impression and condition are fine.
71cm x 36cm.