Woodblock prints, nishiki-e
Vertical ōban triptych, each sheet mm 360 x 250; overall size mm 360 x 750.
Signature: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi ga in a gourd-shaped cartouche, red yoshikiri seal
Censor’s seals: Mera-Watanabe.
Publisher: Sumiyoshiya Masagorō
Superb, even impressions, printed with extensive splashed gofun and large use of mica powder on the giant fish and on the dark areas of the sea.
Very fine colour and condition, minor binding holes. Our triptych compares well with the one at the British Museum (1906,1220.0.1339).
This triptych, one of Kuniyoshi’s finest designs, depicts three separate episodes from the shipwreck suffered by the hero Tametomo on a voyage from Kyushu to Kyoto. On the right sheet Princess Shiranui, Tametomo’s wife, has thrown herself into the sea as a sacrifice to placate the storm; on the left Tametono is saved from committing ritual suicide by mytical creatures, half bird and half man, called tengu who have been sent to rescue him by the spirit of Emperor Sutoku. In the centre Tametomo’s retainer Kiheiji cradles his master’s son Sutemaru in his arms as the two are saved from drowning by a giant crocodile-shark. The crocodile tried to kill the pair, but was then pacified by the spirits of a dead husband and wife, loyal retainers of Tametomo.
B.W. Robinson, Kuniyoshi, London, 1961, no. 58; Riccar, 1978, no. 103; Springfeld, 1980, n. 173; B. W. Robinson, Kuniyoshi, The Warrior Prints, Oxford, 1982, no T261; Hut, vol.3, 1988, BW, no. 29; Hut, vol. 5, 1989, no. 47; Victoria and Albert Museum, 1991, no. 90; Yamaguki, 1991, Kuniyoshi, n. 29; Suzuki, 1992, no. 69; Itabashi, 1994, Kuniyoshi, no.23; Mainichi Shinbunsha, 1995, no. 55; Nagoya, 1996, nos. 68-69; Amsterdam, 1998, no. 89; Robert Schaap-Amy Riegle Newland, Heroes and Ghosts, Kuniyoshi 1797- 1861, Museum of Fine Arts, Bidwell Collection, Sprigfield, MA, U.S.A., 1998, pag. 103, no. 89; Shōtō, 2003, no. 135; Isao,2008, pp. 66-67; James King e Yuriko Iwakiri, Japanese warrior prints, Leiden and Boston, 2007; ill 82. Iwakiri Yuriko and Amy Reigle Newland, Kuniyoshi, Japanese master of imagined worlds, Leiden and Boston, 2013; cat. no. 37, p. 63.