- Museum number
Painting, six-panel screen. Battles between Taira and Minamoto clans. Battle of Ichinotani (two panels far right); Battle of Yashima (central panels); Battle of Dannoura (two panels far left). Ink and colour on paper. Inscribed.
- Production date
Height: 124 centimetres
Width: 365.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Though Ukiyo-e would always be dominated by the twin themes of beautiful women and Kabuki actors - the two major leisure-time preoccupations of Edo townsmen - there were other, smaller genres of subject-matter which maintained their popularity. One of these was prints and paintings of warrior and battle subjects, doubtless deriving from the battle screens by artists of more orthodox schools which decorated the mansions of the warrior aristocracy. Particularly common were scenes from battles in the civil wars between the Taira and Minamoto clans in the late twelfth century which served as a reminder of the heroic origins of samurai rule. The present screen shows the battle fought at Yashima in Sanuki Province in 1185, in which the Minamoto general Yoshitsune drove the army of Taira no Munemori back into their boats, forcing them finally to relinquish the Inland Sea.
Battle pieces were frequently performed to 'joruri' chanting in the popular puppet theatres in the late seventeenth century, and another screen of warrior subjects in a similar style in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts (see Idemitsu 1988, no. 14) is made up of paintings originally hung as signboards in front of such theatres. The caricature style of the figures, with their bulging eyes and grimacing features, is also found in the illustrations of cheap printed novels of the period known as 'Kimpira books' ('Kimpira-bon'), after the name of their muscular hero. This bombastic style of drawing would be later adapted during the Genroku era (1688-1704) for images of Kabuki actors.
Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 1
The land battle depicted on the right-hand side of this six-fold screen merges into a sea battle on the left. Several shields in the first panel bear the bamboo-grass crest that symbolizes the Minamoto clan. Further, Noritsune and Kikuomaru are shown in the well-known battle scene that results in the deaths of Kagekiyo and Tsugunobu, confirming this work to be indeed a depiction of a Minamoto-Taira battle.
More specifically, the Battle of Ichinotani is shown in the first and second panels [far right]. The Battle of Yashima is rendered in the third and fourth, which show boats pulled up to the shore, Panels five and six [far left] represent the Battle of Dannoura - the final defeat of the Heike - fought aboard the ships. Hence, the work as a whole portrays several crucial episodes in the war between the Minamoto and Taira clans.
The style of this work is completely distinct from that of Plates 21-22 in this volume, 'The Battles of Ichinotani and Yashima from The Tale of the Heike'. That pair of screens is so faithful to the original text that the various samurai may be distinguished one from another; furthermore, each section depicts a different, specific scene. In the present work, the exaggerated thrust of the halberd, the gushing blood, the depiction of Benkei with the seven different weapons on his back (panel three), and the three-deck Taira ship with its dragon's-head mast all contribute to create a pervasive sense of violence and near-meaningless slaughter. This particular work's artlessness and high energy have always lent it great popular appeal.
- Not on display
- Associated events
Associated Event: Battle of Ichinotani
Associated Event: Battle of Yashima
Associated Event: Battle of Dannoura
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.Add.49 (Japanese Painting Additional Number)