Sadamasu, Ichikawa Morinosuke as Tayu Atsumori

Utagawa Sadamasu (active 1834 - 1854) Ichikawa Morinosuke as Tayu Atsumori, c1838. Deluxe Chuban.

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This is a masterful print of great refinement by Sadamasu, representing Taira no Atsumori, the beautiful and tragic boy warrior beheaded at the battle of Ichi-no-tani in 1184. The story is recounted in the famous chronicle The Tales of the Heike, and in it the young Atsumori is ambushed on a beach by Kumagai Naozame. Naozame beckoned the youth, saying: “I see that you are a Commander-in-Chief. It is dishonorable to show your back to an enemy. Return!”

The two grappled on the beach, but Kumagai was too powerful. Kumagai knocked off Atsumori's helmet to deliver the finishing blow, only to be struck by the beauty of the young noble. Atsumori was "sixteen or seventeen years old, with a lightly powdered face and blackened teeth—a boy just the age of Naozane's own son..."  At that moment, other Minamoto warriors arrived at the scene, and Kumagai knew that if he didn't kill Atsumori, the other warriors surely would. Kumagai reasoned that it would be better if he were the one to kill Atsumori, because he could offer prayers on his behalf for the afterlife. Crying, Kumagai beheaded the boy. Searching the body for something to wrap the head in, he came across a bag containing a flute. He realized that Atsumori must have been one of the soldiers playing music before the battle and thought: “There are tens of thousands of riders in our eastern armies, but I am sure none of them has brought a flute to the battlefield. Those court nobles are refined men!”

The print is beautifully and delicately coloured with extensive use of bronze powders on the armour. The colour and condition are fine and it is an excellent impression with many deluxe refinements. Three very small wormholes. Kunichika made an outstanding okubi-e of the same subject.

25cm x 18cm.