Yoshitoshi, Sakata Kintoki and The Earth Spider

Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Yoshitoshi Manga (Yoshiyoshi Sketches): Sakata Kintoki and The Earth Spider, 1886. Oban Diptych.

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This is an exceptional print in every way from one of Yoshitoshi’s finest and best designed series. Everything about this masterpiece is breathtaking; it is the work of a great master of drawing and design and composition. The diptych is rare, and of the still rarer first edition; the spider's web which is a skein that crosses both sheets in a fine filligree of silver and is printed and burnished in silver ink. The print is unbacked and has vertical margins which is also extremely rare in this series.

The design is just so daring and so bold, from the masterly drawing of the incidental details such as the bisected andon on the left to the detailed articulation of the go board and sword in the bottom left sheet. All of this contrasted against the flat unmodulated background that is picked out in the silver of the great spider demon, who is here represented by the hovering figure of the servant boy slowly dissolving into the background. Dominating the scene is the bulk of the slumbering hero Kintoki, chief retainer to Minamoto no Raiko. Yoshitoshi barely articulates the figure, allowing the density of the cloth and the outstretched leg to do the work for him, but what an original and convincing pose this is!

The story is, of course, very famous: Minamoto no Yorimitsu, (sometimes called Raiko, 948 - 1021) is struck down with a mysterious illness whilst tracking a giant demon skull. A priest (sometimes attendant) visits him every night with medicine. Kintoki, one of Yorimitsu’s retainers becomes suspicious and resolves to spend the night in his master’s chamber. He falls asleep night after night, being enchanted by the demon. One night, he digs a sword into his thigh and stays awake, witnessing the transformation by using a mirror. Yorimitsu and his retainers track the spider to a cave where they slaughter the demon spider and the thousands of spiderlings that flee from its belly. Kunichika made a triptych of the same event  in 1866.

Such a very fine print, the impression, edition and colour are very fine. Condition is very good except for a centre fold and some slight wear.

Published by Kobayashi, block carver Horiko Noguchi Enkatsu.

49 x 36 cm.