Yoshitora Utagawa, Miyajima Benzaiten and Lord Kiyomori, Warrior Print


Artist: Yoshitora Utagawa (a.c.1830-1880)
Title: Miyajima Benzaiten and Lord Kiyomori
Date: 1861
Size: (L) 34.5 x 23.1 (C) 34.5 x 22.9 (R) 34.6 x 23.2 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

yoshitora utagawa, taira no kiyomori, benzaiten, miyajima
yoshitora utagawa, taira no kiyomori, benzaiten, miyajima yoshitora utagawa, taira no kiyomori, benzaiten, miyajima

This print shows Taira no Kiyomori (1118-1181), the head of the Taira warrior clan that established the first samurai government in Japan. His exploits became one of the subjects of the warrior epic, 'The Tale of the Heike'. A ruthless leader, he was able to climb the ranks of government via manipulation, gaining ranks and titles for his family.

Itsukushima Shrine, popularly known as Miyajima, is one of the most iconic shrines in Japan, known for its 'floating' red torii gate at high tide. It is said that Taira no Kiyomori gave the shrine its present form.

Yoshitora Utagawa

Yoshitora Utagawa was a woodblock print artist active towards the end of the 19th century in Japan. Born in Edo (today’s Tokyo), neither his date of birth nor date of death is known. Yoshitora was a pupil of Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1798-1861), however, he was expelled due to artistic differences. He went on his own path and changed his artist name to Mosai, producing prints of warriors, kabuki actors, beautiful women, and foreigners in particular (Yokohama-e).

The limited contact with the West imposed by the Japanese regime in the Edo period (1603-1868) created endless curiosity that artists were eager to satisfy, although the situations they imagined were sometimes far from being accurate. It is evident from these prints that the Japanese were fascinated by the clothing, the strange habits and the occupations of the foreigners.

For much of the Edo period Japan adopted a sakoku (closed country) policy. Sakoku was a system in which strict regulations were placed on commerce and foreign relations by the shogunate and certain feudal domains. Trade was limited, except for the port of Nagasaki where the Dutch and Chinese were the only ones allowed to operate. In 1859 the port of Yokohama was opened to foreigners, and ukiyo-e artists, primarily of the Utagawa school, produced hundreds of woodblock print designs in response to a general curiosity about the newly arrived visitors.

Yoshitora was a leading designer of these prints and he also produced a number of landscapes derived from Western engraving. In the Meiji period that began in 1868 he also worked for newly established newspapers.

More Information
Print FormatTriptych
ArtistYoshitora Utagawa
SubjectSamurai & Male, Ghosts & Religion
Dimensions(L) 34.5 x 23.1 (C) 34.5 x 22.9 (R) 34.6 x 23.2 cm
Condition ReportTrimmed, backed, creases on right panel, pigment partly spotted.
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