Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) The Biography of Yoshitsune: The Secrets of Strategy, Chapter Thirteen, 1847 - 1850. Oban.
Ushiwaka Maru is the juvenile name of the great hero Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159 - 1189) from the literary legend, Heike Monogatari. Yoshitsune has parallels with the English folk hero Robin Hood; and his is a tragic and very famous story in Japan. His father was persecuted by the rival Taira Clan and Yoshitsune was brought up in a monastery. Legend has it that he was then taught the secrets of fighting by Tengu (mythical forest creatures) before taking up rebellion against his father’s old enemies. Yoshitsune is usually pictured (as here) fighting the warrior monk Benkei at Gojo Bridge. Benkei, known as a phenomenally strong man and warrior, has secured the bridge with the intention of relieving 1000 samurai of their swords. Yoshitsune is his 1000th victim. Yoshitsune, though slight, defeats the giant man using Tengu fighting skills. Benkei becomes his loyal protector and between them they lead an armed rebellion against the Taira, establishing Yoshitsune’s brother as the first national Shogun - a position that would last 650 years until the 19th century. Yoshitsune was betrayed by his brother and later killed himself and his family at the siege of Koromogawa no tate.
Kuniyoshi devoted the whole series of sixteen prints to the life of this popular hero (Robinson S65.9). The print shows the fight between the two heroes, Kuniyoshi contrasting the bulk and apparent clumsiness of Benkei with Yoshitsune’s lightness and feminine delicacy.
The print exists in two states, this is the former and better edition. The colour and impression are very good as is condition, there is some slight edge wear.
Published by Joshuya Juzo.
38cm x 26cm.