Artist: Yoshitora Utagawa (act. 1850–80)
Title: Kato Kiyomasa and Honda Tadakatsu
Publisher: Kiya Sojiro
Condition report: Some pinholes. Left panel slightly browned. Minor wormholes.
Size: (L) 25.5 x 36.9 (C) 25 x 36.9 (R) 25 x 36.8 cm
Two renowned samurai, Kato Kiyomasa (1562-1611) and Honda Tadakatsu (1548-1610), duel on horseback at the Battle of Komaki (1584). With the leading warlords of the Warring States Period Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) now at enmity with one another, previous fealties were cast aside and warriors reformed their loyalties. Although the great daimyo Kiyomasa remained faithful to Hideyoshi, Tadakatsu switched over to the Tokugawa cause, a pivotal move for the Tokugawa forces as they decided to withdraw from the battlefield. It is said that Tadakatsu, who would later be named one of the Four Heavenly Kings of the Tokugawa, was able to halt Toyotomi’s army from pursuing his new lord although greatly outnumbered. Yet, Kiyomasa, one of the Seven Spears of Shizugatake, challenged his defensive attempt aggressively charging in for an attack. Their equal strength is reflective of the Tiger and Dragon symbology often depicted in Japanese art, and, in fact has been represented as such in other ukiyo-e artworks. Both the strongest entities of their respective terrain, the tiger and dragon symbolises a great battle between fierce adversaries. The striking poses of the warriors are undoubtedly inherited from Yoshitora’s master, Kuniyoshi Utagawa: Kiyomasa lunges forward with his spear whilst Tadakatsu, in a deer antler helmet, dramatically blocks. Soldiers all around watch on as the great rivals face off in the mountain range.