Chikanobu Yoshu, Uesugi and Takeda, Battle, Warrior


Artist: Chikanobu Yoshu (1838-1912)
Title: The Battle between Lord Uesugi Kenshin and Lord Takeda Shingen
Publisher: Inoue Mohei
Date: 1882
Size: (R) 24.6 x 36.6 (C) 24.7 x 36.7 (L) 24.7 x 36.6 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print. 


The play is based on the power struggle between the rival Takeda and Uesugi clans during the Sengoku period (1467 – c. 1603). The conflict began over the right to a legendary helmet bestowed to the Takeda clan by the god Suwa, Suwa hosshō. The helmet was lent to the Uesugi clan but was never returned. Furthermore, the two clans were entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru. Their failure to protect him from assassination intensified their mutual animosity, as the government ordered both clans to find the culprit within three years. The penalty for failure was decreed punishable by the beheading of the clan leaders' respective heir. The rival clans saw this as an opportunity to slander one another's name by attempting to find the culprit within each others faction. In this scene, Uesugi Kenshin bursts into Takeda Shingen's camp on horseback and attempts to strike down his rival. Takeda Shingen who is wearing the horned helmet Suwa hosshō, parries the strike with his tessen, an iron war fan used by the samurai in feudal Japan.

Chikanobu Yoshu (1838 - 1912)

Chikanobu Yoshu was a woodblock print artist from the end of the 19th century. He was one of the most prolific woodblock print artists of this period, working with both traditional subjects, such as actors, courtesans, scenes of famous sites, beautiful women, and with topical subjects, such as war and rebellion. Born into a samurai family in Echigo province, Chikanobu became one of the final, great, ukiyo-e artists aiming to preserve the traditional culture of Japan at a time when the country was becoming rapidly modernised. As a child, he studied Kano style painting. When he moved to Tokyo he studied print design first at the studio of Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1797-1861) and later on at that of Kunisada I Utagawa (1786–1865).

The end of the Edo period (1603-1868) and the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) brought a rapid influx of Western values and technologies that influenced many artists of this time, including Chikanobu. As a result, he developed a distinctive personal style blending a close adherence to the traditional technique of ukiyo-e, and occasional western imagery. He designed prints rooted in traditional myths and legends but also kaika-e, prints that documented Japan's modernization, the Emperor Meiji and the imperial court's promotion of that modernization.

Even though Chikanobu’s prints showcase a variety of subjects, due to the wealth of his beauties and court ladies works, it is believed that the customs and events of the imperial family were his favourite subject. Out of these prints, the most well-known series is probably ‘The Inner Palace of Chiyoda’ (‘Chiyoda no O-oku’), which depicts the court life in the palace of the Tokugawa shogunate. Influenced by the rapid changes happening in Japanese society following the Meiji restoration, Chikanobu also produced beauty prints showing ladies in Western clothing, as opposed to kimono. Chikanobu's last works in the early years of the 20th century featured brave samurai and heroic women of Japan's past, models of appropriate behaviour for the future.

More Information
Print FormatTriptych
ArtistChikanobu Yoshu (1838 - 1912)
SubjectSamurai & Male
Size(R) 24.6 x 36.6 (C) 24.7 x 36.7 (L) 24.7 x 36.6 cm
Condition ReportPinholes. Slight tear on the left side of the left panel. Some stains.