Yoshitoshi 芳年: Gojo Bridge Moon (Yoshitsune) 五条橋の月 (Sold)

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Artist: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 芳年 (1839-1892)
Title: Gojo Bridge Moon (Yoshitsune) 五条橋の月
Series: One Hundred Aspects of the Moon 月百姿
Date: 1889

The young warrior hero Yoshitsune leaps effortlessly, seemingly unburdened by his brocade garments, samurai armor and high geta. Every person in Japan would know this hero, the context and the story, although here we are only getting a slice of the picture. Unseen is his opponent Benkei, as well as the setting of Gojo Bridge in Kyoto, where their famous fight took place. The fierce Benkei has challenged the slight and feminine-looking Yoshitsune to a fight to try to claim his sword. Yoshitsune, however, has been trained by the magical tengu on Mount Karuma and Benkei cannot pin him down to engage him as he is remarkably light on his feet. Here we see how Yoshitsune almost seems to be taking flight as he throws down his fan to distract Benkei, and the gauzy pink material of his outfit flows behind him almost like wings. The material itself is beautifully printed, with both soft pink and white; it has been blindprinted to give it the texture of a cloth. The white cartouche is also blind printed with a different pattern. A fascinating vantage point on a perennial story, proof that Yoshitoshi never stopped innovating. A stunningly early impression. The nice part about this story is that the two became friends and no blood was shed during this fight, and Benkei became Yoshitsune’s most loyal follower, with years of exploits to follow.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition. Unbacked.
Dimensions: ôban 35.5 x 24 cm
Publisher: Akiyama Buemon
Literature: John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi’s One Hundred Aspects of the Moon (San Francisco: San Francisco Graphic Society, 1992), number 61. See British Museum, Portland Art Museum.
Seal: Taiso
Signature: Yoshitoshi