Kuniyoshi, Raiko and his Retainers Crossing the Marsh

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Raiko and his Retainers Crossing the Marsh, 1820. Oban Diptych.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

Given the  number of prints in this selection from Kuniyoshi’s great Suikoden series, it is interesting to examine this diptych which effortlessly illustrates Kuniyoshi’s already confident style in portraying the muscular form of the warrior. This diptych was made in 1820, a full seven years before the spectacular series of single sheet warrior prints that were truly to launch his career as Japan’s leading artist. The elements are all here already; in the left hand sheet is the tightly coiled figure drawing his sword, with his hairy arms and bulging muscles and that curious almost western face with its large eyes and big brow. The high colouration of reds and blue accents is also present as is the confident brush and the daring composition.

Minamoto no Yorimitsu, 948 – 1021, was also known as Minamoto no Raiko; he served the Fujiwara clan along with his brother Yorinobu, taking the violent measures the Fujiwara were themselves unable to take and he is one of the earliest Minamoto of historical note. His loyal service earned him the governorships of Izu Province, Kozuke and a number of others in turn, as well as a number of other high government positions. He is most interesting as a character in a number of legends and tales, including the legend of Kintaro (the Golden Boy or Kintoki), the legend of Shuten Doji, and the legend of Tsuchigumo. Raiko is usually accompanied by his four legendary retainers, known as the Shiten-no (The Four Guardian Kings). They were Watanabe no Tsuna, Sakata no Kintoki, Urabe no Suetake, and Usui Sadamitsu.

A very nice print, possibly part of a triptych. Colour, condition and impression are all fine.

Published by  Ise-ya Rihei.