Kuniyoshi 国芳: Yoshitsune and Benkei on Gojo Bridge (Published in Heroes & Ghosts) (Sold)

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi 国芳 (1798-1861)
Title: Yoshitsune and Benkei on Gojo Bridge (Published in Heroes & Ghosts)
Date: ca. 1839-1840

Minamoto no Ushiwakamaru (Yoshitsune) and Musashibo Benkei square off on Gojo Bridge. The glaring, ferocious stare of Benkei is strong enough to melt the heart of a lesser opponent, but the young and beautifully dressed Yoshitsune easily parries Benkei’s weapon with one hand, his only defense an open iron fan. The full moon is above them. Kuniyoshi was a master of graphic storytelling, and this scene was one of his favorites-- it is also one of the best-known stories in Japanese folklore. Benkei was a warrior monk of ferocious size and strength. He has been instructed to collect 1000 swords, and after gathering 999 he spies Yoshitsune on Gojobashi in Kyoto one night beneath a full moon. Benkei thinks that this sword will be as easy to strip from its samurai as the previous swords, as Yoshitsune is young and slight. Yoshitsune, however, has trained in swordfighting with  the magical tengu king Sojobo and his tengu subjects, so he is actually victorious in this bloodless fight. Benkei subsequently becomes Yoshitsune’s most loyal retainer, and they go on to have many famous adventures. This exact print is published in the important Kuniyoshi monograph “Heroes & Ghosts” (Hotei, 1998). Very likely the finest example of this print that exists today.

Reference:  “Kuniyoshi: The Warrior Prints” by BW Robinson, number T54. This exact print published; it is illustrated in “Heroes & Ghosts: Japanese Prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi 1797-1861” by Robert Schaap (Hotei 1998), page 53, illustration number 21.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition. Mint First edition.
Dimensions: ôban diptych 38 x 51 cm
Publisher: Nunokichi
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga