Toyonobu Utagawa, Honnoji Incident, Warrior


Artist: Toyonobu Utagawa (1859-1896)
Title: Honnoji Incident
Series: The New Biography of Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Date: 1883
Publisher: Matsuki Heikichi
Size: (L) 24.9 x 34.3 (R) 24.7 x 34.3 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print. 


Toyonobu Utagawa (1859-1896) was one of the last heirs of the Utagawa tradition. The grandson of Kunisada Utagawa (1786-1865), Toyonobu was one of the most promising young artists of the Utagawa School, but he, unfortunately, died young in 1896. One of his most famous body of works is his series Shinsen Taikoki, the New Selection of the Biography of the Taiko. The Taiko refers to Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), one of Japan's three unifiers. The series recounts his ascension from the peasant class to one of Japan's most powerful warriors, along with various tales of his vassals' exploits.


This print shows Oda Nobunaga's (1534-1582) loyal retainer, Mori Ranmaru (1565-1582), defending his lord from the warrior Yasuda Sakubei during the Honnoji Incident, a surprise plot to assassinate Nobunaga in Kyoto's Honnoji Temple by Akechi Mitsuhide (1528-1582). Mori poses defiantly, barring direct passage to his lord within. His robe is decorated with cranes, pointing towards his courtly heritage. Mori's great display of bravery and loyalty for his lord during this sudden ambush has made this scene an unforgettable episode in Japanese history and is often been depicted in the world of ukiyo-e.

Toyonobu Utagawa (1859 - 1896)

Toyonobu was one of the last heirs of the tradition of the Utagawa School. He was the grandson of Kunisada and the son of Kunihisa. His prints centre around the theme of warriors. One of his most successful series is ‘New Selection of the Biography of the Taiko’ (Hideyoshi Toyotomi). This series tell us the story of the ascension of Hideyoshi Toyotomi and his famous vassals.

More Information
Print FormatDiptych
ArtistToyonobu Utagawa (1859 - 1896)
SubjectSamurai & Male
Size(L) 24.9 x 34.3 (R) 24.7 x 34.3 cm
Condition ReportSome pinholes. Residue from previous backing. Some restoration on margins. Faint pigment marks.