Kuniyoshi 国芳: Station Midono; Midono Kotarô 美止野小太郎

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)
Title: Station Midono; Midono Kotarô 美止野小太郎 (Station 42)
Series: Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidô Road  木曾街道六十九次之内
Date: 1852

Midono Kotarô takes on a gang of thieves who have disguised themselves as monsters from the underworld. As we can see, he easily defeats these bandits due his superior swordsmanship. Kotarô is a character in the novel “The Secret History of Oguri Hangan”, which was published in the early 19th century and was centered on Oguri Hangan, who was a real warrior who lived in the 15th century. Kotarô was a trusted retainer of Hangan, and in this part of the story he has taken shelter in an abandoned temple only to discover this gang of thieves. They disguised themselves as characters from Buddhist Hell in order to terrify any visitors. Here we see a thief grabbing Kotarô’s belt who has tied on his head the horns of a demon, while one at far left is dressed as the hag Datsuiba. We see the remnants of a temple decoration at left and what looks like the head of a guardian figure lying in the grass next to some stakes. This design is a good demonstration of Kuniyoshi’s mastery of graphic storytelling.

Condition: Excellent impression and color. Very good condition. Minor binding holes at right.
Dimensions: ôban (36 x 24.4 cm)
Publisher: Minatoya Kohei
Literature: See Sarah Thompson’s “The Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaidô”, figure 42, page 100. See MFA, British Museum. 
Seal: kiri
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga