Yoshitoshi 芳年: Raiko Conquering the Shuten Doji Demon of Oe Mountain (Sold)

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Artist: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 芳年 (1839-1892)
Title: Raiko Conquering the Shuten Doji Demon of Oe Mountain (Raiko shitenno Oeyama kijin taiji)

Date: 1864
Size: ôban triptych (37.1 x 77.7 cm)

Yoshitoshi has immortalized the moment where all looks lost, just moments before the hero Raiko (Minamoto Yorimitsu) slays the terrible drunken ogre Shuten-doji. The enormous demon seems just about to crush Raiko with his giant hand, as the hero stands poised at center with both hands on his sword, about to deliver the decapitating blow. The scene is dynamic yet controlled, with the ogre’s form filling all three sheets and Raiko and his men raising their swords from all angles. In a humorous touch, one samurai hangs from his enormous left arm while another seems immobilized by the giant’s right arm. We see the monster’s kidnapped women fleeing the scene, and the Shuten-doji’s demonic henchmen also trying to escape the melee. The Shuten-doji’s robe contains oxidizing orange-lead pigment and his entire form has oversized impact due to the giant brushstrokes that comprise all parts of him. His teeth are black and his glare is ferocious, his fearsome face the focal point of the entire scene. Although only 25 at the time, Yoshitoshi shows so much maturity and confidence as an artist; all of the elements of the design work together while remaining distinct and readable to the eye. The famous story of the Shuten-doji is well known; the monster terrorized the area around its lair and kidnapped women near Kyoto until the people begged Minamoto Yorimitsu, Raiko, for help. Raiko and his men then visit the monster, get him drunk and proceed to cut off his head. Kuniyoshi, Yoshitoshi’s teacher, depicted this story numerous times. Indeed, ukiyo-e artists have depicted the story since Moronobu’s series on this story was published about 1680. Raiko is 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 terrific action in play in every part of the design, all supporting the narrative. A scarce design in excellent condition.

From right to left: Ukyō Gon-no-daibu Fujiwara Yasumasa, Takiguchi Utoneri Watanabe Tsuna, Kageyu Jikan Urabe Suetake (R); Sesshū Ason Minamoto Yorimitsu, Yugei-no-jō Usui Sadamitsu (C); Shume Sakata Kintoki. R: 右京権大夫藤原保昌, 滝口内舎人渡辺綱, 勘解由次官卜部季武; C: 摂州朝臣源頼光, 靱屓尉碓井定光; L: 主馬佐酒田公時.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition. 
Dimensions: ôban triptych each sheet approx 37 x 25 cm
Publisher: Kiya Sojiro
Literature: See Minneapolis Museum of Art, Freis collection and catalog. Keyes, Courage and Silence (1982), no. 117; Iwakiri, Yoshitoshi (2014), p. 18–19 no. 18, p. 298. See “Yokai: Strange Beasts & Weird Spectres: 100 Japanese Triptychs” book, page 079.

Signature: Ikkeisai Yoshitoshi ga