Kuniyoshi, Minamoto no Yoshitsune's First Visit to Fujiwara's Hidehira

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Minamoto no Yoshitsune’s First Visit to Fujiwara’s Hidehira, 1842 - 43 original. Oban triptych.

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A favourite triptych of mine… it seems so tame in comparison with the great looming skeleton summoned by Princess Takiyasha, but this self-effacing triptych is a model of sensitive and sophisticated design. Kuniyoshi masterfully uses the rectangular, triptych format to draw the vastness of the palace, a tour-de-force of instinctive perspective, the depiction is immaculate and baffling. One wonders at the scene, the dramas of the precinct… why and how are these heavily robed men placed across the vastness of the floors? The scene is like a science fiction vista… a Star Wars base in its flawless vastness.. And there is the motion… the shuffling, left - right motion of the supplicants, moving like chess pieces across the board towards the slightly raised dais of the feudal lord on the right. It really is a masterpiece of drawing and design, and a blueprint for a modernist pavilion, all Barcelona and Mies van der Rohe in its seamless perfection.

The print depicts the arrival of Minamoto no Yoshitsune at the palace of Hidehira. Fujiwara no Hidehira (1122 -1187) was the third ruler of Northern Fujiwara. During the Genpei War, he controlled his territory independently of the central government. He offered shelter to the young Minamoto no Yoshitsune, who had escaped from Kyoto. For many years, Hidehira was Yoshitsune's benefactor and protector, and it was from Hidehira's territory that Yoshitsune joined his brother at the start of the Genpei War. Later, when Yoshitsune incurred his brother’s wrath, he returned to Fujiwara, and lived undisturbed for a time. Yoshitsune was still Hidehira's guest when the latter died in 1187. Hidehira had his son, Fujiwara no Yasuhira, promise to continue to shelter Yoshitune and his retainer Benkei, but Yasuhira gave in to Yoritomo and surrounded the castle with his troops, forcing Yoshitsune to commit suicide and resulting in the famous standing death of Benkei. Yasuhira then had Yoshitsune's head preserved in a jar of sake and sent to Yoritomo. This did nothing to appease him, and Yoritomo destroyed the Fujiwara domain and killed Yasuhira, son of Hidehira in 1189. Hidehira's corpse is apparently preserved today within the temple of Chuson-ji.

Yoshitsune was a favourite subject of Kuniyoshi. This is a great print, the colour and condition and impression are really outstanding, it is as fresh as when it was first printed. A copy of this print is in the collection of the Honolulu Museum. Robinson T93.

Published by Nuno-Kichi. Robinson T-93.

73 x 36 cm.