Yoshitoshi: Death of the followers of Mitsuhide at the Battle of Yamazaki 尼崎 大合戰 武智 主従 討死 之 圖 (山崎) (戦)

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Artist: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)
Title: Death of the followers of Mitsuhide at the Battle of Yamazaki 尼崎 大合戰 武智 主従 討死 之 圖 (山崎) (戦)   Date: 1865, 5th month

"The death of the principle followers of Takechi Mitsuhide at the great battle of Yamazaki"  (Yamazaki ô-kassen Takechi shujû uchijini no zu). Mitsuhide and his retainers have run out of options on the bank of the Enmyôji-gawa River. On the far bank we see the silhouettes of the two opposing forces clashing in the dark. In the left panel sits Mitsuhide, still mounted upon his expired steed, and pierced with a jumble of arrows. He rests on his sword, his face turned towards the battle in the distance. A gravely wounded standard-bearer limps up the slope, bleeding badly from many wounds, including an arrow through his cheeks. The retainer who is seated at left, who does not seem wounded by battle, seems to be committing seppuku by taking his knife to his own abdomen, his innards spilling out in a red and gruesome flow. One soldier, bleeding badly, has thrown himself upon the riverbank and ferociously drinks the water, the water traveling upwards to the man’s open mouth. The final man is kneeling before his leader, seeming to ask for guidance. The right half of the foreground of the triptych shows various grasses and marsh plants, conspicuously planted in our view; perhaps this is to show the indifference of nature to men’s folly? Yoshitoshi often used plants to create mood and atmosphere. We see also a number of fireflies, mostly hovering above the water. 

The Battle of Yamazaki was faught in 1582, near Kyoto. Mitsuhide had recently betrayed and caused the death of his own lord, Oda Nobunaga. at the Honno-ji Incident. Thirteen days later this battle commenced at Yamazaki between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Mitsuhide, whence Mitsuhide was defeated and Hideyoshi claimed Nobunaga’s power for himself. Yoshitoshi also designed a triptych that showed the heat of the battle itself in 1865. The recent hit historical fiction miniseries “Shogun” takes place a few years after this, and is based on the power struggle between the successors of Toyotomi Hideyoshi that led to the founding of the Tokugawa shogunate. In that series the fictional character of Lord Toranaga is based on the historical figure of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: ôban triptych (36.6 x 24.5 each sheet)
Literature: Keyes number 156 (?). The title is not identical, so it is difficult to say (there is a different characther used for the first part of Yamazaki and there is no “o” in the o-kassen)
Signature: Ikkeisai Yoshitoshi ga