Kuniyoshi: Raiko Severing the Head of the Shuten-doji
Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Title: Raiko Severing the Head of the Shuten-Doji (Raiko Oeyama iri no zu)
Minamoto no Yorimitsu, known as Raiko, has just completed the sword stroke to decapitate the giant ogre Shuten-doji. Raiko stands with his distinctive helmet at right, sword raised, as the head of the Shuten-doji flies up and is shoots demonic rays from his open mouth towards Raiko, his his eyes fixed on his enemy, the head surrounded by dark, evil clouds. One of Raiko’s men seems to be holding the demon’s arm down, while two of his men at left use garden implements to chase away the assorted demons of the Shuten-doji’s retinue. A number of smaller demons are seen tumbling down from the cliff in the distance, unclothed and helpless, while a few seem to hide in the white cloth bags at bottom left. The Shuten-doji’s skin has been depicted using a a color which contains a lead pigment that has oxidized to an uneven brown-grey, as intended. This is a very famous story, one that Kuniyoshi depicted numerous times, and one that various ukiyo-e artists had covered since Moronobu’s series on this story was published in about 1680. Raiko is usually accompanied by his four legendary retainers, who include Watanabe no Tsuna and Sakata no Kintoki, both heroes that Kuniyoshi also liked to portray. We see the roots of Japanese manga and anime here, with supernatural action in play in every part of the design, all supporting the narrative. The setting is the Shuten-doji's lair on Mt. Oeyama.Condition: Very good impression, color and condition. Minor trimming at top, and folds near edge of two of the sheets.
Publisher: Yamamoto Heikichi
Literature: Robinson T298. For the same design in the collections of The British Museum, visit their website and enter the accession number 2008,3037.20902,
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga
Size: Oban triptych (36.2 x 77.4 cm)