Toyonobu Utagawa, The Battle of Mt. Yoshino, Warrior


Artist: Toyonobu Utagawa (1859-1896)
Title: The Battle of Mt. Yoshino
Publisher: Morimoto Junzaburo
Date: 1882
Dimensions: (L) 24.7 x 36.7 (C) 24.8 x 36.3 (R) 24.7 x 37 cm
Condition: Tear at the bottom of the right panel. Paper thinned in some areas. Stain and hole in the centre of the left panel. Some corners restored. 


The serenity of the snow-mantled landscape betrays the suspense of the scene. Spying his pursuers from a slightly elevated temple grove, the samurai Sato Tadanobu senses movement and prepares his blade. With the pine trees cover, the warrior monk Yokogawa Kakuhan stealthily approaches, readying his naginata for a preemptive strike.


Famously recounted in the medieval Japanese epic Tale of Heike, the renowned warlord Yoshitsune no Minamoto swiftly departed from the capital after hearing of his death warrant from his own brother. Yoritomo no Minamoto was a suspicious and paranoid leader; after finally consolidating his military rule of Japan, he sought to quell any threat to his reign even if that meant assassinating his loyal brother. With a small retinue, Yoshitsune escaped East. A proven warrior in battle, Tadanobu was regarded as one of Yoshitsune's Four Heavenly Kings and had further chance to prove himself so when reaching the mountains of Yoshino. Almost being overwhelmed by enemy warrior monks of Zo-o-no, Tadanobu pushed his master to escape by donning his armour and serving as a decoy, successfully taking out the pursuers in the process.


During the Edo period (1600-1868), snow scenes were commonly paired with the Prussian blue pigment to striking effect. Here, in the later Meiji period (1868-1912), Toyonobu contrasts the pure white with the deep red synthetic pigments recently imported from Europe. The rhythm of the composition is dynamically spaced, with each subject punctuating their respective third of the triptych.

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 FormatTriptych
ArtistToyonobu Utagawa (1859 - 1896)
SubjectSamurai & Male
Size(L) 24.7 x 36.7 (C) 24.8 x 36.3 (R) 24.7 x 37 cm
publisherMorimoto Junzaburo:1861-1923