The Typhoon at Daimotsu Bay in Settsu Province in 1188
(Bunji yonen Sesshu Daimotsu no ura nanpu no zu)
signed Kunichika ga within the artist's Toshidama cartouche, publisher's seal Kinkyu (Omiya Kyujiro of Kiyudo), with combined censor and date seal Saru-shi, aratame (year of the monkey , 4th month, examined)
oban tate-e triptych 14 by 27 3/4 in., 35.5 by 70.6 cm
After defeating the Taira clan at the Battle of Dannoura, Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189) and his retainers were betrayed by his brother, Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147-1199). Yoritomo, who had taken control of Japan following their victory, distrusted Yoshitsune's loyalty. Yoshitsune's host fled Kyoto by boat, passing through Daimotsu bay. Historically, the group was attacked by a group of Yoritomo's retainers. However, legend and subsequent noh and kabuki plays including Funa Benkei (Benkei in the Boat) have reimagined the battle of Daimotsu as a supernatural affair. Instead of battling Yoritomo's retainers, Yoshitsune's enemies were the ghosts of the defeated Taira host. Amidst a great storm, wave upon wave of ghosts beseiged the boat. Eventually, when all seemed lost, the warrior-priest Benkei (1155-1189) moved to the bow of the ship, prayer beads in hand, and chanted magic spells to disperse the ghosts and tame the waters. They withstood the force in a Phyrrhic victory, as too many men were lost to consider war against Yoritomo and Yoshitsune was forced to remain on the lam.
In this composition, Yoshitsune stands in the right sheet, grasping at the hilt of his sword, while Benkei stands at the ship's prow in the center sheet.
Helen Craig McCullough, trans. and ed., Yoshitsune: A Fifteenth-Century Japanese Chronicle, 1971, pp. 161-165 (re: battle of Daimotsu)
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, 2001, cat. no. 12 (re: battle of Daimotsu)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.41739a-c
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site last updated
December 6, 2018
Scholten Japanese Art
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