Chikanobu Yoshu, Lady Tomoe Defeating Uchida Ieyoshi, Battle of Awazu


Artist: Chikanobu Yoshu (1838-1912)
Title: Lady Tomoe Defeating Uchida Ieyoshi(和田義盛 内田家義 巴御前)
Publisher: Ryokodo, Narasawa Kenji
Date: c.1890s-1900s
Size: 24.2 x 35 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

Tomoe Gozen, shown here on the battlefield, is one of the most famous and admired women warriors in Japanese history, having served Minamoto no Yoshinaka during the Genpei War. She is described in 'The Tale of the Heike' as being very beautiful with charming features, but what set her apart was her incredible strength, her remarkable skills as an archer and swordswoman. Tomoe is often celebrated in books, music, poems, films, historical novels and popular culture.

At the battle of Awazu in 1184, Yoshinaka and his army were outnumbered and sensing imminent defeat, he ordered Tomoe to flee the battlefield. She reluctantly obeys, not before spurring her horse into the middle of the enemy forces and gruesomely beheading one of her opponents, in a last act of loyalty to General Yoshinaka.

Chikanobu Yoshu

Chikanobu Yoshu was a ukiyo-e 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 FormatOban (Horizontal)
ArtistChikanobu Yoshu
SubjectBeauty & Female, Samurai & Male, Male & Female
Dimensions24.2 x 35 cm
Condition ReportDiscolouration, some soiling, centrefold.