Kuniyoshi: The Ghost of Akugenta Yoshihira Exacting Revenge on Nanba Jiro at Nunobiki Waterfall (Sold)

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
Title: During the Visit of Kiyomori to the Nunobiki Waterfall, the Ghost of Akugenta Yoshihira Strikes Down Nanba Jiro (Kiyomori nyudo Nunobiki no taki yuran Akugenta Yoshihira no rei Nanba Jiro o utsu) 清盛入道布引滝遊覧

The air is filled with lightning bolts from every direction in this dramatic scene of revenge by the spirit of a slain warrior. At center is the fierce, grey-blue ghost of Akugenta (Minamoto) Yoshihira, who is suspended in a cloud of red flames, which seem to be emanating from an explosive black cloud of energy. He strikes his enemy Nanba Jiro down with a ball of fire, who falls backward, helpless. At left is Taira no Kiyomori and members of his retinue. Two of the retinue cover their heads in terror, and the umbrella held by one attendant has been ripped to shreds by the extraordinary thunderbolt. Taira and his closest samurai look on with fierce expressions. To give background to the scene, in 1160 Yoshiira had been decapitated by Nanba Jiro (Tsunefusa) during Yoshihira’s  defeat in the Heiji rebellion. Yoshihira’s last words were “Without fail, I will become a thunderbolt and strike you dead.” In 1168, when Nanba Jiro was visiting Nunobiki waterfall with Taira no Kiyomori, a lightning storm suddenly descended on them and Nanba was killed. This story originated in the Tales of the Heiji, or Heiji monogatari.

Kuniyoshi (naturally) loved this scene of supernatural revenge, and created  numerous print designs of the story, all quite different. Kuniyoshi’s student Yoshitoshi also designed a terrific version of Yoshishira’s ghost from this scene in “New Forms of 36 Ghosts”, as well as a very rare vertical triptych version.

Note that the lighting bolts and the frayed umbrella have been highlighted with a lead orange pigment that has oxidized to varying degrees, making each example of this triptych unique. Scarce design.

Condition: Very good impression, color and condition. Some trimming at top.

Dimensions: ôban triptych (34 x 77 cm)
Literature: See MFA, Honolulu. Robinson T10.
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Ise-ya Sanjiro