Kuniyoshi Utagawa, 12 Signs of the Zodiac, Inoshishi

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Original Japanese woodblock print.

Artist: Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1798-1861)
Title: Inoshishi (Boar). Kajiwara Heizo Kagetoki
Series: Japanese Heroes for the Twelve Signs
Publisher: Mikawaya Kihei
Date: 1854
Dimensions: 24.2 x 36.2 cm
Condition: Trimmed. Minor crease on edges.

For this series, Kuniyoshi designed 12 prints, each showing a sign of the Chinese zodiac. His focus was famous Japanese warriors, pairing them with signs that would characterise them. The twelve animals are in the astrological chart are rat, bull, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and boar. Beautifully designed, the series has a colourful cartouche with the name of the warrior and also the character of his corresponding sign.


In this print, he resembles Kajiwara Heizo Kagetoki with a boar. Kajiwara was a spy for Minamoto no Yoritomo in the Genpei War, and a warrior against the Taira clan. He came to be known for his greed and treachery. He spied initially for the Taira Clan but switched sides to that of Minamoto no Yoritomo and his brother Yoshitsune. A reckless man, he would often take rash decisions, hence the comparison with a wild boar. Kuniyoshi shows him wearing lavish clothes and urging his ships to attack. A few warriors are seen hiding behind the flag of the Minamoto clan, apparently overwhelmed by Kajiwara's actions.

More Information
Artist Name Kuniyoshi Utagawa
Title Inoshishi (Boar). Kajiwara Heizo Kagetoki
Subject Samurai & Male
Dimensions 24.2 x 36.2 cm