Kunisada: Yoshitsune Learning Fighting from the Tengu (Sold)

  • Sold.

Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)
Title: The Young Yoshitsune Training in the Martial Arts with the Tengu King
Date: 1856

Here we see Ushiwakamaru training under the Tengu King Sojobo on Mount Karuma in Kyoto. In the center panel “Noble son“, Ushiwaka-maru (onz’o-shi Ushiwakamaru) is sparring with a winged tengu (konoha-no- Tengu), left, under the direction of the king of Tengu of Kurama mountain,  So-jo-bo (Kurama-yama no So-jo-bo), seated at right.

The scene depicts the training of young Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (1159-89), then called Ushiwaka-maru, who was born as the noble third son of Minamoto-no-Yoshitomo (1123-1160) and Tokiwa-gozen, a concubine. Yoshitomo had nine sons altogether and Yoshitsune was the youngest of them all. Yoshitomo fell during the Heiji Rebellion (1160) and Tokiwa-gozen fled Kyoto with her three children. Due to her new marriage, Ushiwaka-maru was separated from his mother at the age of ten and entrusted under the care of the Temple Kurama on Kurama mountain. There he was trained under Sojobo, the protector of Mt. Kurama, to learn the martial arts of fighting strategy as well as to gain the supernatural powers of the tengu.

In the center sheet Ushiwaka-maru is fighting with chiku-to, a bamboo sword, in the moonlight. He wears the red upper kimono with the Genji family crest “sasa rindo“ , comprised of five leaves of bamboo grass with three flowers. Sojobo, the chief tengu of Mt. Kurama is also called Kurama Tengu (sójó= monk of the highest rank; bó=suffix). The characteristic appearance of the tengu king includes the reddish face, the large nose, big eyes, beard , and a black cap on the head.  Sójóbó here has white hair and beard and an extra-long nose. He holds a feather fan on his claw-like right hand with long nails and holds a “tori-gashira-no-tachi“, a ceremonial sword, decorated with the head of a rooster, in his lap. He wears the kesa cape of a monk under the blue scarf. He wears a pair of shoes in the Chinese style.

The winged konoha-no-Tengu, a crow-like tengu with a beak (also called karasu Tengu) was one of the lowest ranks of the tengu, which were known to be small fighters (as Konoha means the leaf of a tree.) Mt. Kurama was known for its beautiful scenery; here we are in the deep forest beneath the crescent moon.

As this print also portrays actors (although unnamed in this print), it is possible that this is from the dance “Joro no Makoto Osada no Chuko”, also called “Kuramayama”, which premiered at the Ichimuraza in the 11th month of 1856, with Kawarasaki Gonjuro I in the role of Ushiwakamaru and Ichikawa Kodanji IV in the role of the Tengu.

Condition: Excellent impression. Very good color and condition. Unbacked. With mica highlights in the black of the sky and in the brown of the clearing.

Dimensions: ôban triptych (35.7 x 72.6 cm)
Signature: Toyokuni ga