Kunisada: Fight of two Samurai
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Kunisada: Fight of two Samurai
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Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III) (1786-1865)

A fierce night battle between two samurai with lances at the corner of a temple balustrade. In the background, behind clouds of smoke and trees, the enclosing wall of the surrounding area, behind which an encircling army can be seen, indicated by the blades of numerous lances, lanterns, military banners and flags.

Title: Umino no Tarō Harumichi (海野々太郎春道) (left)  -   Gokyu no Kisanta ( _ _ ノ喜三太) (or 御厩喜三太, Onmaya no Kisanta?) (right)

Signature: Gototei Kunisada ga

Publisher: Yamaguchiya Tôbei (Kinkôdô), Edo

Censorship: Kiwame

Date: c. 1825

Size: Ôban diptych, overall approx. 35.5 x 49.5 cm

Very good impression and colours. The two sheets separate, unbacked. Minimal soiling and rubbing, some smoothed creases and folds, two inconspicuous, expertly restored wormholes in the right sheet. Left side with a few thinner spots, lower left corner expertly repaired. Overall very good condition.

Extremely rare and masterfully composed warrior diptych by Kunisada. So far only one other copy traceable, cf. Horst Graebner’s Kunisada.de (http://www.kunisada.de/Kunisada-musha-e/mushae-2.htm)

One of the earliest large size ukiyo-e depictions of the famous scene from the historical "Honnôji Incident" (1582):

Betrayed and ambushed by his renegade liege lord Akechi Mitsuhide and his troops, the powerful daimyo Oda Nobunaga committed seppuku at Honnôji Temple in Kyoto. The followers of Nobunaga then set fire to the temple themselves, so as not to let the corpse of their master fall into enemy hands. Nobunaga's loyal young retainer, Mori Ranmaru (recognizable by the crane crest on his robe), is fighting his final battle against Mitsuhide's retainer, Yasuda Sakubei, who is shown in full armour. In the background Mitsuhide's troops can be seen. The names of the two opponents mentioned in the picture are fictitious for reasons of censorship.

For a likely template for this scene see the Ehon Taikôki (illustrated biography of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, c. 1800), https://www.arc.ritsumei.ac.jp/lib/vm/2018taikouki/2019/02/b3-05c3.html. For the "Honnôji Incident" see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honn%C5%8D-ji_Incident.