Kuniyoshi, A Comparison of the Ogura 100 Poets - Kaidomaru (Kintaro) and Urabe Suetake

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) A Comparison of the Ogura One Hundred Poets: Kaidomaru (Kintaro) and Urabe Suetake, 1847. Oban.

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This print is of the foundling child and great Japanese hero Kaidomaru (Kintoki). Here is one of the most striking prints from one of the best collections of ukiyo-e of the nineteenth century. In 1845 the publisher Ibaya Senzaburo commissioned the three leading artists of the day, Hiroshige, Kunisada and Kuniyoshi, to contribute to an anthology of 100 poems by 100 poets. The poem is written at the top of the print and a scene from history or drama is illustrated below, each scene being an obscure allusion to the subject of the poem.  Here is the great Henri Joly on Kintaro from entry no 464:

KINTARO. The golden boy; also named Sakata Shume.  The child of the forest, found, according to some, by the wife of Sakata no Tokiyuki in a dismal corner of the Ashigara Mountains, while another version has it that the boy, son of the ronin Kurando, was lost in the mountains by his mother, Yaegiri, and picked up by the mountain nurse, the Yama Uba, who adopted him and named him Kaidomaru. This latter version is generally adopted. Kintaro grew to an enormous strength, wrestling in the mountain with all the beasts and goblins, including the monkey, the stag, the bear, and the Tengu, and he is frequently represented fighting one or other of the last two. His usual companions are the deer, the hare, and the mischievous "red back," the monkey. His weapon is an enormous axe, and on children's kites he is often depicted carrying it.

One of his celebrated feats was the uprooting of a huge tree, with which he made a bridge over a foaming torrent for himself, his three followers, and the female bear once when they had been surprised by a storm on their way home. One day, when Yorimitsu (Raiko) was in need of a squire, he noticed a curious cloud over a mountain, and sent his retainer, Watanabe no Tsuna, (some versions say Sadamitsu), to investigate and report. The warrior found in a hut the Yama Uba with Kintaro, who, the witch said, was longing to become a warrior. The strong boy was brought to Raiko, who attached him to his person, and thereafter let him share his exploits against the goblins, ogres, etc., which appear to have been very numerous around Kyoto in the eleventh century.

The poem reads:

If they bear such names / the ‘come sleep vine’ of / ‘Meeting Slope Hill’ / how I wish there were a way for you to come to me, / as if pulling in a vine unknown to others.

Kuniyoshi is here alluding to the yearning of the two men Kintoki and Raiko to be together, as if pulled to each other by fate. A fine early copy, very fine colour, impression and condition. Faint centre fold. Full size with margins and unbacked.

Signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi. Published by Iba-ya Sensaburo.

24cm x 37cm.