Kuniyoshi: Heroine Defeating Two Men on Horseback

Utagawa Kuniyoshi

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861)
Title: Shukyuyu Fujin Overthrowing Choki and Machui 通俗三國志之内, 孔明六擒孟獲
Date: 1854

Shukuyu Fujin, wife of Mokwaku, overthrowing Choki and Machui. “Kongming’s Sixth Capture of Meng Huo: (Komei mutabi Mokaku o toriko ni su) from the series The Popular Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a Chinese historical novel from the 14th century attributed to Luo Guanzhong that is set at the end of the Han dynasty in the 2nd-3rd century CE. It is regarded by the Chinese as the greatest of their novels. As this was published so close to the arrival of Commander Perry’s ships in Japan, it is possible that there is a subtext here intended for the Japanese people of presenting an underdog defeating a seemingly larger power. It is interesting to note how Kuniyoshi here mimicked western techniques, as the woman’s hair resembles  western engraving and there is chiaroscuro shading on the horses and on the garments. Women warriors were a fascinating subject for Kuniyoshi, and although the women depicted are usually self-sacrificing for their men, this one shows a woman overpowering men on a competitive field. It bears noticing that to make this more palatable to the public that the heroine and context were not Japanese but foreign, in this case Chinese.

Condition: Excellent impression and color; very good condition.
Dimensions: ôban triptych
Publisher: Tsutaya Kichizô (Koeido)
Literature: “Kuniyoshi: The Warrior Prints” by BW Robinson, number T310. 
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga with his seal of a paulownia


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